Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bayern Munich world champions

It was probably one of the most unsurprising results ever when Bayern Munich today took the official title of world club champions after defeating Raja Casablanca 0-2 in Marrakesh tonight. Bayern Munich were in complete control in the first half, and although the Moroccans fought bravely and had some good chances, the end result was never really in doubt. Bayern Munich end the year knowing they won every tournament they played in; undisputed world champions.
As always the world club championship remains difficult to get excited about although Morocco were great hosts of the tournament, and with Raja Casablanca creating a sensation when they eliminated the Brazilian favourites of Atletico Mineiro to make it to the final. Huge disappointment for the Brazilians, where Corinthians took the title last year.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The revived Liverpool

Liverpool has not won an English championship since 1990, and has for some years been in the shadow of other English clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Even though they still have a record of 18 titles, they are hungering for renewed success in the English league. In 2012 Brendan Rogers became manager, and in his first season Liverpool ended 7th, not even qualifying for the Champions League. At the same time there were stories of their record signing, the ever-controversial Luis Suarez, wanted to leave, so expectations high but not exuberant as the new season started. But Liverpool has indeed been on fire, and today they impressed everyone when the destroyed another ambitious team, Tottenham, 0-5 in London. The Liverpool team played brilliantly, even without Stephen Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge. Luis Suarez cemented his position as the most scoring player in the Premier League with two beautiful goals; he is as controversial as ever, but his footballing quality is unquestionable. At the same time young players Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling also scored, showing that Liverpool already has outstanding young players for the future. If they can play like this every week, Liverpool is a very serious title contender in what is becoming one of the most exciting Premier League seasons ever, with brilliant teams facing one another every week!
One word about Tottenham would be that Andre Villas Boas is surely not performing as a coach, and I believe he is unlikely to stay there much longer.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tears for Naples

12 Points are usually enough to make it to the second round of the Champions League but it was not enough for Napoli, who will have to console themselves with the Europa League after defeating the leading English side, Arsenal, 2-0 in their last round match. It did seem at one point that both teams were through as news were coming in that Marseille and Borussia Dortmund were 1-1, which put the Germans out. But a last minute goal put Dormund in front and meant Napoli had to win 3-0 to go through. Although 3-0 over Arsenal sounds difficult, it is disappointing that the Napoli side, when up 1-0 and hearing the score in Marseille stopped attacking. Their second goal came when it was too late to go for a third, but who knows if they could have made it eariler....?
Dortmund ended up winning the group by the late goal, with Arsenal second.
It is a pity Napoli is out, but this was indeed the group of death with three teams that all deserved to be in the next round.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The 2014 World Cup draw

On a day where the passing away of the greatest man of our century was announced (and indeed, Nelson Mandela was also a keen football fan), I must admit that it was rather halfheartedly that I watched the World Cup draw.
The groups look as follows:

Group A: Brazil, Cameroun, Mexico, Croatia
A fine draw for the hosts, in a group where all three remaining sides will be fighting for second place

Group B: Spain, Chile, Netherland, Australia
A thrilling group with a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final, and a Chilean side that, if anything, is better than four years ago.

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Some very interesting sides in a group where the favourites seem to be Colombia and Ivory Coast, but where Japan could be an outsider. Greece Perhaps, but unlikely.

Group D: Uruguay, England, Italy, Costa Rica
Another thrilling group with three former World Champions and then a Costa Rican side that without pressure could surprise.

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras, France
It may look to some France is favourite, but I would put my money on Ecuador. That said, Switzerland is also a team that can cause havoc against anyone. Didn't they defeat Spain four years ago?

Group F: Argentina, Iran, Nigeria, Bosnia-Hercegovina
It seems to be a fine draw for Argentina, who have nevertheless had some epic clashes against the African champions of Nigeria. Iran and Bosnia are rather unwritten, but not sure they could threaten Argentina and Nigeria.

Group G: Germany, Ghana, Portugal, USA
This is perhaps the most difficult group with four very strong sides. USA is perhaps the biggest underdog, but that is also where the North Americans are most comfortable.

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Corea
Belgium are the team to watch, and seem to have had a doable draw. South Corea is always dangerous and Russia can do well on a good day. However, nobody in this group will be world champions!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brondby on a roll

In the Danish league Brondby defeated the number one team, FC Midtjylland, 0-1 in Herning. After a near bankruptcy and starting the league as dead last, the end of the year is finally bringing positive news for the fans of this beleaguered side. I am one of those fans. Who know? It may become interesting to watch the Danish league again!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Qualified for Brazil

The participants for the World Cup are ready, and there is an excellent list of participants for what could be the most exciting World Cup for decades. The draw of the groups will be on December 6th, but here is a little pre-estimate of the teams:

  • Spain: No matter what people say they are the favourites to win the title. Indeed, they are not the same as four years ago, and there may be a little fatigue in a side that has won it all. Nevertheless, they have become a team that know to pace themselves in competition. Only a few teams will be able to match them, and they need to hope Spain has a bad day (like when Brazil won the Confederations Cup).
  • Portugal: It would be a great loss for the World Cup if Cristiano Ronaldo did not play in it. And indeed, he almost single-handedly brought Portugal to Brazil, and will be important in carrying them far.
  • France: Classified in the last game with a good 3-0 victory over Ukraine in spite numerous difficulties along the way. While it is impossible to deny the talent of French football, the national team has been hugely disappointing for a long time now. Frank Ribery will be hugely important to carry them forward, but I doubt they will do anything memorable.
  • England: The last World Cup in Brazil was also historic for England, who were brought down by little USA. This time expectations will not be as high as back then, and England will be more humble. But do not count humility to get them far either.
  • Belgium: One of the dark horses of the World Cup, with one of the most exciting young teams in the world right now. While they may play some great matches and could cause some serious upsets, it is doubtful they can go all the way. Will be nice to see them go far though.
  • Netherlands: As always they will enter the tournament as favourites, having been awesome in qualification. Still, they have always had difficulties, just like in 2012 in Ukraine, and while they have the capacity to go all the way, it remains to be seen.
  • Germany: Surely will be a favourite to win the tournament with an excellent and organized side; one of the best of the world.
  • Switzerland: The Swiss have a solid side of many strong players but qualified from what many considered an easy group (ahead of Iceland). Still, due to their results over the last years they will be seeded in the highest group, where many will look to face them. But care must be taken not to underestimate them (remember Spain in 2012...?).
  • Italy: Was strong in qualification in a weak group. The side under Prandelli is more offensive and is surely to be reckoned with, although not many will think them likely to take the title.
  • Croatia: Qualified in the play-offs against Iceland after trailing Belgiun in the qualifying group. They are not as strong as in former years.
  • Greece: A strong and organized defense took them to the World Cup after a play-off match against Romania. Greece is not going to be World Champion in Brazil.
  • Bosnia-Hercegovina: The only first-timer in the 2014 World Cup. They won their group ahead of Greece, and will surely want to proudly show their flag in Brazil.
  • Russia:Won their group perhaps a bit surprising ahead of Portugal when the Portuguese could not defeat Israel at home. The side is coached by the almost-legendary Fabio Capello, and it will be very interesting to see what they can do in Brazil.
North America and the Caribbean:
  • USA: After a bit shaky start they profited well from the results in the CONCACAF qualification zone to win the group and qualify directly.
  • Honduras: After defeating the USA and tying Mexico at the start of qualification Honduras fell somehow behind until they stunned Mexico by defeating them 1-2 in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, a match that put them well-deserved in a world cup position.
  • Costa Rica: Winning all their home matches in "la hexagonal" was what effectively put Costa Rica in their fourth World Cup. I have fond memories of Costa Rica from their 1990 participation where they stunned the world.
  • Mexico: One of the most difficult qualification campaigns ever for Mexico: it started in the first stage with five players being suspended for doping, and then they struggle in "la hexagonal"  where their formerly impregnable home stadium Azteca was suddenly not so impregnable. After losing at home to Honduras coach Chepo de la Torre was fired, and Mexico just managed to get the fourth spot and a play-off match against New Zealand. Here, Mexico made no doubt that they belong in Brazil, winning 9-3 on aggregate.
  • Ivory Coast: The Ivorians again go to a World Cup with one of the strongest African sides, even with an ageing Didier Drogba. Still, it will be wonderful to see the veteran in Brazil.
  • Ghana: Ghana is in their third World Cup in a row, and after destroying the strong Egyptians in the qualification play-off, the Black Stars will also be a team to watch, and perhaps again keep the African hopes alive.
  • Algeria: Were lucky to qualify in the end with their play-off against Burkina Faso. Algeria will always get sympathy since they were cheated in the World Cup of 1982, but still, I think I would have loved to see Burkina Faso in Brazil.
  • Cameroun: The legendary Cameroonians made no doubt they wanted to be in Brazil when they trounced Tunisia 4-1 in their last play-off match. It will be their seventh World Cup and hopefully the legendary Samuel Eto'o will be there one last time.
  • Nigeria: The African champions had no major problems qualifying, even defeating a good Ethiopian side in the play-offs. They will be under pressure to do well in Brazil from their expectant fans after not having done well in the latest World Cups.
South America:
  • Brazil: Brazil is under huge pressure and expectations to win the World Cup, and they are surely favourites. It has helped that they now have Felipe Scolari as coach, who is the one man who may lead the Brazilians beyond the pressure to success. Together with Spain, they are the favourites.
  • Colombia: A likeable and strong team, Jose Pekerman has an important challenge in trying to tie together his offensive players in the most efficient manner. While Colombia may be a dark horse for the title, I think their defense weaknesses and the enormous pressure their fans always puts on them, will likely prove their demise.
  • Chile: Because of its attractive playing style Chile is likely to win even more friends in Brazil than they did in South Africa. Also, the side looks even stronger, making Chile another of the sides to watch out for in Brazil.
  • Argentina: While they apparently have some of the best attacking power in the world, Argentina does not look to be an unbeatable side. Coach Alejandro Sabella has himself admitted that they are weak in defense, and denied that Argentina is a favourite. I agree.
  • Ecuador: They started well in qualification but foundered a bit towards the end, although their participation never really looked threatened.
  • Uruguay: They had some problems in qualification, and at one point their participation looked unlikely. But towards the end they came back strongly, with some of their excellent strikers putting up strong performances to give them a play-off match against Jordan. There was really no contest when Uruguay destroyed the Jordanians in Amman. Last time Uruguay played a World Cup in Brazil they won it in front of an astonished Maracana Stadium. While they may not win it again, their participation in Brazil is one of the most necessary ones for the tournament.
  • Japan: The Japanese were the first side to qualify to Brazil, where they will surely have many fans following them, something that will give them extra energy. They did well in South Africa and are bound to do well in Brazil.
  • South Corea: Perhaps not as strong as before, but still the most consistent team from Asia, having participated in every World Cup since 1986.
  • Australia: Now part of the Asian qualification Australia had little trouble qualifying behind Japan in their group. This will be their third consecutive World Cup.
  • Iran: Qualified well by winning the second round group ahead of South Corea and Uzbekistan to make it to their fourth World Cup.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ronaldo to Brazil

In a previous post I asked who I would rather see walking down Copacabana: a Portuguese or a Swede? This was partly because I was afraid of asking whether Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic would be best in te World Cup.
I am not afraid of comparing any more. While it will be a pity that Ibrahimovic (who scored two goals tonight), it would be a much greater pity to miss Cristiano Ronaldo, who at the moment, together with Frank Ribery, is the best player in the world, far better than the little Argetinean, who is becoming more of a boring soap opera star.
Who would have thought...?
With three goals tonight it was Cristiano Ronaldo who took Portugal to Brazil. Portugal often annoys me me because they become cocky, and lose matches against worse teams. They may do the same in Brazil, but if they keep their head cold and with a magical Ronaldo, Portugal could well conquer the world in their former colony...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Who would you rather see walking on Copacabana?

With Sweden facing Portugal in the World Cup play-offs one thing is certain: a side with great haircuts will be out. And yesterday Portugal took the first round by winning 1-0 on a late goal by Cristiano Ronaldo. After a shaky start Portugal were indeed the better side, but 1-0 is a very narrow victory to go to Sweden with, and it will be a thrilling second match.
I admit that both teams are great sides that surely belong in a World Cup. So I have to use other criteria to decide on who to support. The question is: who would I rather see walking in a bikini on Copacabana? A Portuguese or a Swedish lady...?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Uruguayan superiority

Uruguay is almost certain to be in Brazil next year after having trashed Jordan 0-5 in Amman in the first leg of their play-off match. Next week's match in Montevideo is now just a formality where the Uruguayans will nevertheless be forced to entertain a sold-out stadium, so it seem likely Jordan are up for another beating.
Edison Cavani, who scored a beautiful fifth goal for Uruguay, was only too nice to Jordan when he said that "it looked like it was easy, but it was not" (he even added that "we still have a difficult match ahead of us").
Of course it was easy, because let us face it, Asian football is many light years away from South American football, and there is not a single of the ten South American sides that would not have defeated the fourth best Asian side to make it to the World Cup. That is what makes it so grotesque when some people talk about Asia and Africa deserving to get more spots in the World Cup, mostly instead of Europe, but certainly also instead of South America.
Really? That would mean that number four in Asia, Jordan, would have qualified, but we would have missed Uruguay!?
Any right-minded football fan (even Jordanian football fans) have to agree that the World Cup would only be weaker and more boring with teams like Jordan instead of Uruguay, and the humongous difference in quality between the sides was only much too obvious today.
I am not saying it will always be like that. Perhaps one day number four in Asia will be as good as number five (or six if we count Brazil) in South America. But frankly, I do not believe I will see this happen for many decades!
Congratulations to Uruguay! Cannot wait to see them in Brazil! (let us not forget what happened last time Uruguay played a World Cup in Brazil....).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"A boring league"

Just read an interview with the successful Atletico Madrid coach, Diego Simeone, in which he calls the Spanish league "boring". In spite of his team's second place in the league he says his only expectation when the league started was to bother the two great teams, and this he has greatly succeeded at. But still, his team has to fight hard to win every match, and their second place is also, in my view, because of the prolonged crisis that Real Madrid has been in. And I certainly agree with Diego Simeone when he says it is laughable to talk about crisis in FC Barcelona, when the team has won 12 league matches and is quite uncontested in first spot.
In reality one needs only to look at the history of the Spanish league in the last years to see how boring it is: not since 2008 has another team than Real Madrid and Barcelona been in top-2 (Villarreal, who trailed Real Madrid for the title). Not since 2004 has another team than Real Madrid or FC Barcelona won the title (Valencia, ahead of Barcelona). In 2012 the point difference between number 2 (FC Barcelona) and number 3 (Valencia), was 30 points, which was greater than the difference between number 3 and number 19 (Sporting de Gijon), who went down to second division, just showing the Spanish league to be a league of two teams fighting for the title and 18 teams fighting for survival.
One can say that this is because Real Madrid and Barcelona simply are better, but this is overly to simplify it. Both teams have advantages that the other teams can only dream about. While all teams struggle financially, both teams seem to have never-ending amounts of money, negotiating their own TV deals, which are worth more than the entire rest of the league together. As such, they continue promoting themselves as global brands and making money, perpetuating their superiority.
It is refreshing that Atletico Madrid is up there, bothering the dominance of the two Monster-clubs, but just as Simeone, we all know it is just for a little while, and that Atletico has no chance of taking the title in the near future. Maybe they can take second spot, but that will also require all the hard work and luck that Simeone and his players can find.
In any case, the Spanish league is slightly better for it, but continues to be the second most boring league in the world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Real Madrid Fan Club in Liberia

I am not a Real Madrid fan. But yesterday a friend invited me a long to the "Yellow Bar" in Monrovia to watch the match between Real Madrid and Juventus among the recently created Real Madrid Fan Club of Liberia. This is the first fan club of its kind in Liberia.
There was a good atmosphere in the bar, in spite of loud annoying music playing during the match. And the fans were lively and with good knowledge of the match. Although Real Madrid won 2-1, it was nevertheless not the best evening to be a Madrid fan: the team is playing poorly under Carlo Ancelotti. There is lack of creativity, speed and pressure on the opponent, and yesterday they were indeed helped by a referee who gave a thin (although defensible) penalty and an outrageous red card to Giorgio Chiellini. One had to feel sorry for a Juventus side that during the first half largely outplayed Real Madrid.
Real Madrid is nevertheless looking solid to win the group where Copenhagen again lost, this time to Galatasaray. In spite of this, Real Madrid fans have to expect more from their team that what they saw last night (the referees will not always be helpful).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Saved by the USA

Mexico has for decades been the leading footballing nation in North America. But over the last ten years, the USA, their neighbour from the north, with all the historical and social ties that bind them and separate them, has also become the arch-rivals of Mexico on the football pitch. In spite of the USA's massive advances, Mexico has also enjoyed success, taking the Gold Cup title in 2009 and 2011, and taking Olympic goal in 2012. But in 2013 Mexico has surely been surpassed by the USA, who took the Gold Cup title, and was by far the best in World Cup qualification, becoming the first CONCACAF nation to qualify. In the meantime, Mexico was struggling for a play-off match as they suffered to get points, most notably losing to Honduras in the intimidating Estadio Azteca for the first time ever.
Soon, Honduras and Costa Rica were set to join the USA, while Mexico was bound to dispute the play-off match with Panama. They did well last weekend when they defeated Panama at home, but in their last match Mexico lost 2-1 to Costa Rica, and thus had to hope that Panama did not defeat an already qualified USA side, who went to Panama with many of its reserves.
With the 90 minutes gone Panama were 2-1 up, and heading to a play-off match with New Zealand.
But alas, the US Cavarly came to the rescue of the beleaguered Mexicans in the 91st minute: first Graham Zusi and then Aron Johannsson (both to become national heroes in Mexico, with a few rancheras named after them) scored for the USA to give them a victory, a cold shower for the Panamanians, and a lifeline to the beleaguered Mexicans.
Mexico has been poor to say they least; while they surely be favourites against New Zealand, they should not take it for granted, as New Zealand can surely take out the Mexicans on a good day. And this time, there will be no USA around to help the Mexicans!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ghana... GHANA!

I was unable to watch Ghana-Egypt today, as I was still in the office, but was following a live feed of the match as goals were pouring in. Egypt, 2010 African champions and the only African nation to go through a clean sheet in the first round of qualifying seem to have been no match for Ghana!
But let us face the real World Cup facts: only one of these two nations belong in Brazil, and that is Ghana. Twice beloved in 2006 and 2010 for their World Cup participation, Ghana is a nation that embodies the best of African football: discipline, physical strength, technical skills, and not least, the best fans in the world. 
What about Egypt? World Cup participants in 1934 and 1990, winners in Africa many times, but without the stamina to qualify to World Cups. And what are their fans known for...?
No, Ghana belongs in Brazil, and I am more than delighted that they so thoroughly crushed the Egyptians today!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ethiopia can only hope

I went to an Ethiopian restaurant near my place in Monrovia to watch the World Cup play-off between Ethiopia and Nigeria in Addis Abbaba. The atmosphere was good as I noticed a cautious optimism among the Ethiopians in the restaurant. And this optimism only increased in the first half as Ethiopia played excellent and entertaining football to pressure the African champions. They even had a goal disallowed which in my view had crossed the line (there is no goal-line technology in Africa, and it will remain controversial, but I think Saladin Said's shot was across the line), and were largely the better team in the first half.
In the second half Ethiopia went ahead 1-0 on one of the strangest goals I have seen: Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyaema misjudged a pretty bad cross, and when catching the ball he seemed to cross the goal-line. It is as unclear as the first half goal, but this time the goal was awarded.
This made Nigeria wake up, and Emmanuel Emenike equalized with a great strike, where, if anything, the Ethiopian defense gave him too much space. And that is what may make Nigeria a great side: they score on their chances in spite of not playing better.
Ethiopia clearly stopped believing after this. In the restaurant where I watched the match it was clear that the cautious optimism turned to disappointment, and that also seemed to be what happened in Addis Abbaba. In fact, they never really believed they could do it, and the rest of the match they showed no danger to the Nigerian goal. On the other hand, in the last minute Nigeria was awarded a penalty which Emmanuel Emenike scored on, and gave Nigeria a victory. The next match will be in one month in Nigeria. I cannot believe that Ethiopia has much of a chance there, where Nigeria is is almost certain to win a spot in their fifth World Cup.
It is great that the African Champions are going to Brazil, but it is impossible not to feel a little sad for the Ethiopian side. With a largely home-based squad they play very entertaining football, valuing speed and technical quality much more than the overly tactical sides of today (Like Nigeria!). It is surely a bit naive, but it would be fantastic to have a team like that in Brazil next year, if anything, to add a little spice to the tournament.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Intensity in Ouagadogou

I just had the pleasure to watch the first leg of the African Play-off World Cup qualifier between Burkina Faso and Algeria. After Burkina Faso's sensational runner-up spot at the Africa Cup of Nations, they are now looking to qualify for their first World Cup ever. The Algerians are an experienced side who have already been to three World Cups, and are probably still favourites with their many young players plying their trade in leagues such as the Italian, French and Spanish.
In the first half things looked good for Burkina Faso when they got a correct penalty, but Aristide Bance missed it. However, in the last minute of the first half Jonathan Pitroipa, who plays in Rennes in France, brought the Burkinabes ahead 1-0 on an elegant header. In the second half Sofiane Feghouli equalized for Algeria, before Djakaridja Kone brought happiness back to the Burkina fans. But poor defending signified another equalizer for Algeria by Carl Medjani.
In the last minutes of the match Burkina Faso was awarded a highly controversial penalty. Watford defender Essaid Belkalem was penalized for a handball in the area, but on TV it could clearly be seen that it was not a handball, and he even seemed to be outside the area.
It would perhaps have been more fair if Aristide Bance had missed his shot this time, but on his second try he did not, and his goal gave Burkina Faso a 3-2 narrow victory and took the a step closer to Brazil.  However, be sure that on 19th November, the Algerians will give a hellish welcome in Algeria. I hope the Burkinabes make it, but I think I would put my money on the Algerians.

Epic Colombian qualification

A tie at home against Chile was enough for Colombia to qualify for their first World Cup since 1998. So there was a festive mood in Barranquilla, where Colombia has been awesome during this qualification campaign, and perhaps it was some of the reason that the Colombian team seemed to forget that they had to play the match before celebrating. Withing 30 minutes they were 0-3 down against an efficient Chilean side that seems likely to make it to Brazil.
Barranquilla was quiet, but Pekerman, the Argentinean coach of Colombia, must have spoken harsh to his players at half-time, as they came out with renewed attitude and attacking prowess. It took a harsh red card to Chile's Carlos Carmona, a strike by Teofilo Gutierrez and two penalty goals by Radamel Falcao to seal an epic comeback and a deserved spot in Brazil 2014.
That said, Colombia will suffer from the enormous pressure by the hugely expectant and critical Colombian fans, who can be as passionately unforgiven and cruel to their players as they can support them with emotion when they win. Few teams in the world face the kind of pressure Colombian players face, and this will probably be their downfall in Brazil next year, in spite of me hoping the opposite.
At least this time they will be able to blame it all on an Argentinean coach.

In spite of it all, Colombia's star players and excellent style of play are one of the teams that simply belong in Brazil next year, as the World Cup would not be the same without Colombia.

An anticipated elimination

I watched Denmark's match against Italy today somewhat reluctantly. There were other interesting matches at the same time, but with Armenia's victory against Bulgaria, Denmark had, against all odds, a chance for second place in their world qualifying group and perhaps even a play-off match. And I did not regret it: I got emotionally into the match as Denmark equalized Italy's lead, and even went ahead 2-1 in the second half, on two goals by the drunk-driving returnee Nicklas Bendtner. But alas, in the last seconds of the match Italy made it 2-2, and Denmark's sudden dream of a World Cup spot were suddenly shattered.
Suddenly, because they were never really there: two ties against Bulgaria, and an epic 0-4 home defeat to Armenia were the reasons that Denmark did not qualify, and in spite of the emotions of today's match, they had little to do with Italy's late equalizer. In fact, I had the sense that Italy's reserve side could have scored at will, in spite of Denmark second-half dominance. All Danish fans have to face the fact that Denmark is simply not good enough for a World Cup this time round. It is as simple as that. The return of Nicklas Bendtner could not have been more positive, with him scoring two goals. That said, it is still with regret that one looks at a player that has clearly wasted his talent, but he is surely the best striker Denmark has, which just goes to show the very low quality of strikers produced in Denmark...
Italy wins the group, and the second placed side of this group seems unlikely to get a play-off match, which also tells you of the low quality of the group.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Belgium to Brazil

Belgium have qualified to the 2012 World Cup in Brazil with a 1-2 away victory to Croatia on two goals by Everton's Romelu Lukaku (he is in fact on loan from Chelsea, and frankly he is far better than any striker Chelsea has). The victory against their closest rivals in the World Cup qualifying group (whcih also counts Wales, Macedonia, Scotland and Serbia) seals their superiority in a group where they were far superior to their rivals, as well as an extraordinary climb on the FIFA world rankings over the last few years, where they are now in the top-10.
Belgium's return to the World Cup is not only great for Belgian fans (or for fans of Belgian football, of whom I count myself as one), but also for football fans in general: Belgium's rise over the last few years under coach Marc Wilmots (who does not remember his extraordinary bycicle kick goalagainst Japan in the 2012 World Cup?) is the result of targeted work with young players, many of whom are now plying their trade in the Premier League. Besides Lukaku, some players worth mention are Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin de Bruyne (Chelsea), Moussa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) or Christian Benteke (Aston Villa). There are many more young talents, but these are also complemented by strong and more experienced players such as Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal) and Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich). With this Belgium has achieved a near-perfect balance before the world cup. Many may even mention them as outsider candidates, but that may be going too far for such a young team. No matter that, they can surely defeat any team, and they will be truly exciting to watch in Brazil!
And on top of it all, it gives us all an excuse to say cheers in good Belgian beer! Cheers!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

A historic day

If anyone were ever to write a biography about me (pretty boring, but please play along), today would be a day to write down: the very first time in my life that I supported Real Madrid! It was of course the Danish champions of FC Copenhagen, whose second defeat in a week would give me more happiness after Brondby finally defeated them last Saturday in the Danish league.
However, after Real Madrid went up 2-0, I must admit that I stopped watching: Real Madrid were not even trying, but were obviously far superior to FC Copenhagen. Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel DiMaria ended up giving Real Madrid a comfortable and easy 4-0 victory, and I am grateful.
But in the end, I could care less.
Instead, I switched channel to watch a much more interesting match, where the defending Champions League champions, Bayern Munich, under Pep Guardiola, played a fantastic match away against Manchester City, winning 1-3, putting themselves firmly at the top of Champions League Group D. In that same group I should mention that CSKA Moscow defeated Viktoria Plzen 3-2, and their third goal was probably the silliest goal ever in Champions League history:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

London derby

Tottenham and Chelsea are two great sides with two very unlikeable coaches (and I am not saying they are bad coaches). Today's derby in London was more about the two Portuguese coaches, Mourinho and Villas-Boas, than about the two great sides facing one another. It was a pity, since there was so much to be excited about in the match!
Tottenham started as by far the best side, dominating the match against Chelsea, who were not finding their way. It was a good combination between Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado which led to Gylfi Sigurdsson's goal, and Paulinho also had chances to bring Tottenham further ahead. In the second half Chelsea started putting pressure on Tottenham, who had to pull back. The deserved equalizer came from John Terry in what was a great match.
Both teams will be in the fight for the title, and both coaches will continue being unlikeable.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Masterly Madrid

I have seldom seen Real Madrid play so well as this did this evening in their Champions League 2013-14 opening match against Galatasary in Istambul. Galatasaray are a frightening side, not least playing at home, and today they did not play badly, even after Isco brought the visitors ahead in the first half. In the second half they were even close to equalizing, but an unforgiving and well-organized Real Madrid side was not shaken at any point in the match, instead playing with an awesome patient efficiency that could get them far in the tournament. Two goals by Karim Benzema and three goals by a fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo were the result. Umut Bulut's goal for Galatasaray did not matter a bit for a Real Madrid side that played like possible champions.
They mean it. But there is a long way to go!
In the meantime, in their group, Juventus was again unable to play in Copenhagen (where I am not aware whether people with a foreign-sounding name were able to attend the match?), where 1-1 against the locals should be a huge disappointment, and the Italians are already trailing the Spaniards in the fight for first spot in the group.

African World Cup Play-offs

The African World Cup Play-off draw has led to the following clashes:
  • Ethiopia-Nigeria
  • Ghana-Egypt
  • Ivory Coast-Senegal
  • Tunisia-Cameroun
  • Burkina Faso-Algeria
The exciting newcomers from Ethiopia will have to play their best against Nigeria's African champions, while Ghana and Egypt will be an epic clash between two of the strongest footballing nations in Africa. Burkina Faso will also have to play their best to make it to their first World Cup ever, but it does not look impossible against Algeria.
First leg will be on October 11th to 15th!

Friday, September 06, 2013

Insignificant surprises in Europe

In Europe's World Cup qualifying group I the world champions of Spain took an important step by winning 0-2 against Finland, at the same time as France only managed to tie 0-0 in Georgia. France now has four points up to Spain, who will have to mess up their last home matches against Belorussia and Georgia not to qualify.
But France's 0-0 was far from the only surprise in the European qualifiers. Estonia managed a 2-2 against the Netherlands, who were in fact lucky with a late penalty to give them the tie. However, it matters little to the Dutch, who are six points ahead of Romania in group D, and will surely make it to Brazil.
In group B Italy is almost certain to go to Brazil with a 1-0 victory against Bulgaria. In the meantime, there are now four pursuers to the second spot, where Armenia are the big surprise. After defeating Denmark 0-4, the Armenians showed that they mean it seriously by defeating the Czechs 1-2 in Prague. Bulgaria has 10 points, while Armenia, the Czech Republic and Denmark all have nine points, and will be struggling for the play-off second spot. That said, all four teams are so mediocre that it would seem impossible for them all to win a play-off match against any team in Europe.
In group E Switzerland had an opportunity to take an important step to Brazil at home against Iceland. Switzerland were 4-1 up, but the usually so solid Swiss defense did not hold, and the match ended 4-4. Switzerland are still on first spot, four points ahead of Norway, with eleven points, and closely followed by Albania, Iceland and Slovenia. However, I must say that this is another of the mediocre groups that would be likely not to win a play-off (unless they draw one of the group B sides!).
Sweden managed an important 1-2 away victory to Ireland, and are now second behind Germany by five points. Germany defeated Austria 3-0, with one goal by Miroslav Klose, who with his 68th goal for Germany equaled Gerd Muller as the most scoring player on the German national team ever. Germany will be going to the World Cup, and Miroslav Klose is bound to break the legendary Muller's record.

Zambia out

It is difficult not to like Zambia, but almost impossible not to love Ghana. So today it was a difficult match to watch as one of the teams would surely be going out of the World Cup. Ghana was at home to a Zambian side that had to win, and that was a bit too much for the visitors, who went away with a 2-1 defeat, and are out of the World Cup.
Ghana are now winners of their World Cup qualifying group, and will be continuing to the knock-out round, where Africa's five participants for Brazil 2014 will be found. It will be thrilling, as it will see some sides that surely belong in the World Cup: Algeria and Egypt are already certain, together with Ghana.
But for now, one step closer for Ghana, which is impossible not to be supporting!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

First time ever I will support Real Madrid

The draw for the 2013-2014 Champions League took place yesterday. Real Madrid ended in Group B with Italian champions Juventus, Galatasaray and the champions of the great Danish league, FC Copenhagen. I sincerely hope Juventus will win the group. However, more notable than that, I have come in a situation where, for the first time in my life, I will be supporting Real Madrid. In the fixtures against FC Copenhagen I will be celebrating each Madrid goal as it were of my own team, just because I want to see Copenhagen crushed.
The Champions League draw looks as follows:

Group A:
Group B:
 Group C:
Group D:
Group E:
Group F:
Group G:
Group H:

The Supercup title

Perhaps it is a symbol of a season to come that Pep Guardiola's first title with Bayern Munich was the one title they have not won before.
But before lifting the trophy Bayern Munich had to suffer in the feet of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, a side that already seems changed under the Portuguese. Mr. Mourinho is surely not a very sympathetic figure (and I am quite sure he cares less about people saying this about him), but the magic touch he did not have in Real Madrid, is something he seems to have brought back to Chelsea. All players fight hard, with spirit, something that was not the case last season. Also, their disciplined organization in the back, combined with excellent striking power (the arrival of Samuel Eto'o is in my view exciting news for all of us fans of the Cameroonian! Does he still have it in him?), makes Chelsea one of the contender for both the Premier League and the Champions League title, in spite of many people disliking it (I am not fond of it, but I surely still admire Mr. Mourinho as a fantastic coach).
When Fernando Torres brought Chelsea ahead things already looked difficult for Bayern Munich. When Eden Hazard brought them ahead in extra time after Frank Ribery's equalizer, it seemed that Chelsea, even one man down, was going to get a sweet victory. However, one thing to admire in Bayern Munich's super side, is the tenacity with which they continued creating chances, only to be hindered by a splendid wall in the form of Petr Cech! What a splendid goalkeeper he continues to be! Javi Martinez last minute equalizer was well-deserved, if not disappointing for Chelsea and Petr Cech in particular.
Penalty kicks are a lottery, and the loser in the final was the young Romelu Lukaku. It showed strength that he was willing to take that last crucial kick. But he will surely be at the forefront again together with the rest of Chelsea.
In the meantime, another title for Guardiola and another for Bayern Munich.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Amputee football in Liberia

It was a nice Sunday in Monrovia. The second Monrovia marathon took place in the morning, and I was among the runners for the 10 Km "baby" run. The real marathon was won by a Kenyan runner. It was perhaps an announcement of things to come when on Sunday afternoon Liberia were facing Kenya in a friendly match of amputee football.
Amputee is played on teams of 7 players. And these are amazingly strong players, who play in crutches for almost an hour, managing to do things with the ball that most two-legged people cannot do. It is fantastic to see these guys whose strength is not only physical, but most of all mental and spiritual; an example of people who have come a long way with more difficulties than most of us will ever face.
These guys deserve nothing but respect.
Liberia are in fact defending African champions in amputee football, and in spite of a meager showing at the amputee football World Cup last year (won by Uzbekistan) they continue, with Ghana, to be the strongest African side. This showed in yesterday's match against Kenya, where the Liberians had great ability in moving the ball around against a defensive Kenya side. The second goal for Liberia was in fact the result of an excellent combination and a beautiful curved shot. Liberia won the friendly match 2-0, and continues to build up for next year's amputee World Cup in Mexico.
I will surely be cheering for Liberia there!

Friday, August 23, 2013

First and second from below

Brondby has been in crisis for years now, and after the club was "saved" economically, they again had great expectations for the new season. But things have started horribly, and after five matches, Brondby is without a victory and bottom of the table. Things continue to look dim.
But more strangely, Brondby's arch-rivals and defending Danish champions, FC Copenhagen, are also without a victory and are second last. This week the consequence became that the Belgian coach, Ariel Jacobs, was fired, and new coach will become the Norwegian Staale Solbakken, who already coached the club to five titles, so expectations will be that he pulls Copenhagen up.
In the meantime the Jylland team with the uncharacteristic name of FC Midtjylland is leading the league with five victories in five games, and may already seem like a serious candidate for the title, although there is of course a loooooong way to go.

At least some things are like in the old days: Brondby and FC Copenhagen are again fighting for first and second place, albeit from below...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Football lazy Saturday

While I was in Venezuela I did not play football once. It was therefore great when I joined a group of guys to play football yesterday evening. But figures that after four years without playing, I pulled a muscle. Today I have been taking care of my injury, on a rainy day that has not invited to go out either. So it has been a day entirely devoted to football: I woke up to hear the BBC World Football Phone-In on podcast, before watching the opening match of the Premier League, where Liverpool defeated Stoke 1-0.
The following match was between Arsenal and Aston Villa. The Gunners started well, but the referee did not favour Arsenal: the first penalty he gave Aston Villa was ok, but the second was a complete giveaway. Aston Villa's star, Christian Benteke scored on both (for the first penalty he was lucky). With a harsh red card to Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal seemed broken, and Antonio Luna's third for Aston Villa happened in the face of a broken Arsenal defense.
Arsenal will not be champion, but todays match was a special in their lack of luck and a lousy referee.
The third match I watched was Swansea-Manchester United. The most impressive in this match was Manchester United's strong attacking pair, Danny Welbeck and Robin Van Persie. With two goals each they broke down a Swansea side that was not playing badly, and for who Wilfried Bony at least scored a goal. But Manchester United seemed very dangerous, and a well-playing Antonio Valencia also contributed to the victory. David Moyes could impossibly have had a better start!
It is now evening in the laziest day of the year, and I will probably watch yet another match.

The Spanish league opening

The Spanish La Liga is opening this weekend. Call me crazy, but I am going to make a prediction: first and second are going to be Barcelona/Real Madrid, and the rest are just going to be fighting for third place...
Barcelona have a new coach and so have Real Madrid. Before the season starts, Real Madrid seems to have the upper hand under Carlo Ancelotti, having created a more quiet atmosphere than under the Jose Mourinho soap opera. FC Barcelona on the other hand are an unwritten chapter under Gerardo Martino. He is offensive, but more cynical as well. It will be interesting to see how Barcelona adapts.
No matter what, the Spanish league will be somewhat lame, since the only interesting thing, are the two top sides.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Opening the 2013-14 Premier League season

This weekend the best league in the world is finally starting! And it will surely be an interesting season with all the new signings and deals. One of the most interesting aspect, more than the eternal rumours of high-level transfers, are the many new high-level managers in Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. And personally, I believe the winner of the league will be among one of these three.
Manchester City is perhaps my favourite to win the championship. With Manuel Pellegrini they will have one of the best managers in the world, and hopefully he can create harmony in a team with stars such as Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Edin Dzeko. On top of it, the team has just bought the fashionable Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo, so they will at least be one of the most interesting sides to follow.
Chelsea will also be a title contender, and what most people will be watching is surely Jose Mourinho's return to his old club. Hated and loved, he is surely one of the most controversial figures in football, and expectations will be high. The team has not changed that much since he was there, except for the notable absence of Didier Drogba. But perhaps Mourinho is the man to get the best out of Fernando Torres, Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Manchester United is starting a new era with David Moyes as manager. He will undoubtedly face pressure in the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson, who said goodbye to the job with the title. While surely still a strong team, they have vainly been looking for reinforcements this summer.  Much will rely on some of their current stars such as Robbie van Persie and Antonio Valencia, while the rumours about Wayne Rooney's possible exit only seem to give the side instability.
Arsenal will not win the title. Under Arsene Wenger they continue to be one of the most interesting sides to see young super talents play at the highest level, but the fans, eager for a title, seem exasperated at not having a major signing. For me, this just shows how little appreciation Arsenal fans have for a side that even with a major signing, would not be likely to take the title.
Tottenham is surely one of the most interesting sides. Having finished fifth last season the club has ambition for more, and have made two big signings with Roberto Soldado, coming from Valencia, and the super-talented Paulinho, who caught the attention of Europe after the Confederations Cup, but who had been brilliant for Corinthians for a couple of seasons already. It seems unlikely that they will be able to keep Gareth Bale, who is likely to join Real Madrid, but they are surely a team to watch nevertheless.
Everton will also be starting the season with a new coach, Roberto Martinez, after David Moyes signing for Manchester United. They have not made major signings until now, but rumours say that Marouane Fellaini may be on his way to Manchester United. Like their neighbours Liverpool FC, Everton is unlikely to make much headway this season.
Liverpool are fallen giants, and most news from the club have been about the Luis Suarez soap opera. Really, they should just let the clown go... In the meantime, the club has tried to reinforce themselves with Aly Cissokho from Valencia, and are in the bid to get the Brazilian Willian, from Shakhtar Donetsk.
There are other teams that will surely be interesting to watch and who can play against any opponent (this is what makes it the best league in the world!): Swansea under Michael Laudrup  has ambition for more having been able to retain Michu. Sunderland under Paolo Di Canio has been upgrading its side with the signing of Josy Altidore, while West Bromwich Albion has gotten veterans such as Diego Lugano and Nicolas Anelka.
Be sure there is a great season ahead of us!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Papal football

Settling in a new country and with leagues slowly starting up, I have not had time to dwell much on football lately. However, last night I enjoyed watching the Papal match in Rome, between Argentina and Italy.
A match in honour of the first Argentinean Pope was indeed appropriate for two countries that share so much outside the pitch, and certainly also inside the pitch, where Italy played with the Argentinean Pablo Osvaldo as a replacement for Mario Balotelli.
Argentina also missed their greatest star, Lionel Messi, who could not give his divine touches due to an injury. However, Argentina seemed in control without him: they had more possession against an Italian side that seemed without concentration, in particular in defense, where a giveaway resulted in Gonzalo Higuain's opener for Argentina. Higuain has recently changed from Real Madrid to AS Napoli. I am of the opinion that this can only be a good deal for Real Madrid; in spite of a good goal and being a decent fighter, Higuain also misses too many chances; last night he had one huge miss.
Argentina without Messi or Aguero worked well, in spite of the poor Italians. In general the weakest part of Argentina is defense, and in spite of them not suffering too much (they could do nothing against Lorenzo Insigne's elegant goal), they have still not found a magic formula.
Argentina will surely be going to Brazil, and can already book their tickets in September in their qualifier against Paraguay. However, no matter Messi or the Pope, or any form of divine intervention, Argentina will not become world champion. They are far behind quality sides such as Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands, and light years behind Spain, the world champions of 2014 (who defeated Ecuador 0-2 in a friendly in Guayaquil, one of the strongest South American sides).
An interesting friendly Papal match, but one that is not worth much to anyone.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gerardo Martino in Barcelona

The only good thing about Paraguay's national team in the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America was Larissa Riquelme. They were cynical, defensive, and in 2011 played some of the worst negative football I have ever seen. And the coach then was the Argentine Gerardo Martino, who has recently been appointed as coach for FC Barcelona.
Looking at Mr. Martino's CV there are some explanations to his appointment: he is a pupil of Marcelo Bielsa, who also inspired Pep Guardiola to the pressuring and offensive football that he refined in FC Barcelona. In fact, upon his return to Argentina's Newell's Old Boys after his stint in Paraguay, he was highly critical of what he called Argentine's football modern tendency to want to win rather than entertain.
At the same time he has shown, particularly in Paraguay, that he is able to be more cynical given the situation where he did not have the players to play like he liked. In Barcelona he will be able to, but there can be little doubt that he will also give Barcelona more cynicism, maybe like they needed against Bayern Munich in this year's Champions League.
No matter what, it will be very interesting to see how he does.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From Venezuela to Liberia

My time in Venezuela has ended. During my stay there Venezuela climbed in the world rankings, made it to their first Copa America semifinal ever, and still have a chance of qualifying to their first world cup ever. It was interesting to follow the "Vintotinto" in this time of change of hope. I will not support them, but I hope for all the wonderful people that I met in Venezuela that they make it far.
If anything, Venezuelans deserve it.
My new destination is a country that in football terms is known for one player: the splendid George Weah; best player in the world in 1995 he stunned audiences in Europe while playing for AC Milan. Since then, Liberia has not figured at all on the football stage. Torn apart by civil strife and instability the country has not been able to take advantage of the huge passion for football that exists here, and I have no doubt that unexploited talent exists as well. But they have a long way to go. Their last participation in an Africa Cups of Nations was in 2002, and they have no chance of qualifying for the world cup in its group with Senegal, Uganda and Angola.
Still, it will be interesting to see what happens while I am here. I have a good football mojo!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Brazil is back

The Brazilian team was highly motivated as they entered the pitch for the final of the Confederations Cup against the World Champions of Spain tonight. I must admit that I had doubted that Brazil would be able to pull it off, but they were indeed far superior to the Spanish, who were unable to put pressure on Brazil, and the few chances they created were wasted in part due to bad luck.
It simply was not Spain's day, but I also believe that Spains' offensive weakness only became too obvious when Fred brought Brazil ahead in the first minute, and the Spaniards could no longer rely on their defensive possession, but had to create chances. These chances were bound to go through the midfield, but Brazil never let the Spanish midfielders alone.
With 3-0 Brazil showed that they are serious candidates to win the title at home next year. Still, as fantastic as it was to see Brazilian football back on top, one worries about whether Brazil can host the tournament amid the protests that even continued outside the stadium. Perhaps this tournament has been a prelude to a revolution by fans in a football game that has become big business and big politics, further and further from people that it only seeks to exploit.
Just like society in general.
This very strange Confederations Cup has shown the best of football, excellent games, great players, fantastic fans, but also the worse: greed, corruption and a bunch of rich old men and women who have captured the game for their own desire for power and money.
Brazilians have started asking for justice, and this goes far beyond football.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unsurprising stuff

The Confederations Cup has been without surprises, and everything points to a final between the Brazilian hosts and the world champions of Spain. Both sides won all their matches in the first round, but Spain was surely the better team, winning all matches with style, except against Uruguay, but that they can only blame themselves for.
Africa, North American, Asia and Oceania (poor little Tahiti!) were swept aside in the first round for it to become a South American and a European semi-final respectively, setting the stage for the Brazil-Spain final: Brazil won a hard-fought 2-1 victory today against Uruguay and I doubt that Spain can avoid defeating Italy in a repeat of the 2012 Euro final.
I also doubt that Brazil has a chance against Spain: the Brazilians have not looked overwhelmingly strong despite winning their matches. They have committed serious defense mistakes, such as in Cavani's goal for Uruguay today, and will be under enormous pressure from their own fans at a time when only a victory could defuse some of the protests in the country.
No, Spain is by far the better side, and if the unsurprising tournament continues, the Spaniards will also take the title.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The World Cup in Brazil

I  want to share this video. Perhaps a lot of people disagree, surely a lot of people, football fans, would rather ignore it. But there is truth in the fact that a world cup overshadows a lot of things that are, much, much more important. Football is the most important of all unimportant thins, but sadly a lot of powerful and rich people want to make us think that it is the most important to fill their own power and money needs.
Watch this.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ireland-England, 1988

A couple of years ago I did a series of posts on this blog about the Greatest World Cup matches of all time. Truth is that I have been working on the greatest European Championship matches of all time, and just this week I was looking at a match that had its 25-year anniversary this week, namely Ireland-England in 1988. The Republic of Ireland had until 1988 been midgets of European football. This was in spite of the fact that almost all its players were professionals in the strong English and Scottish leagues, where some clubs had distinctive Irish symbols. Glasgow Celtic for instance, where three Irish players in the 1988 squad came from: the goalkeeper Pat Bonner, and the experienced defenders Mick McCarthy and Chris Morris. Three players were stars in one of England's best clubs, Liverpool, namely Ronnie Wheelan, John Aldridge and Ray Houghton, while another three played in a club that was known for its Irish players, Manchester United: Kevin Moran, Paul McGrath and Liam O'Brien. The team captain was the Derby County veteran Frank Stapleton. Given that these players played top level football in England and Scotland, it seemed somewhat strange, not to say arrogant, that England seemed to underestimate Ireland. When you added to this that Ireland was coached by one of the greatest players England had ever produced, Jackie Charlton, and a great manager, England should expect a difficult match. England indeed had one of the best generations it had produced for a long time. In 1986 they had made it to the World Cup quarterfinals, only to be eliminated by the ingenuity and brilliance of Diego Maradona. Up front England had a powerful duo with the top-scorer of the 1986 World Cup, FC Barcelona's Gary Lineker together with Liverpool's Peter Beardsley, and right behind them the magnificent John Barnes, also from Liverpool. The veteran Peter Shilton from Derby County guarded the goal, while the veteran from Manchester United, Bryan Robson, was the team captain. The side also included the legendary Glenn Hoddle from AS Monaco, one of the most gifted players of that generation. English football in the 1980s had nevertheless been tarnished by hooliganism. After the tragedy at Heysel in 1985, English clubs had been banned from playing in Europe. Still, the national team continued to attract hordes of beasts, and England's games were considered high security risk. Ireland had qualified the tournament just ahead of Bulgaria, and it was the first time ever that the Republic of Ireland participated in a major tournament. England had not had much difficulty qualifying ahead of Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland and Turkey, and it was, as always, a team full of expectations of glory that went into the tournament. England was a bit weakened going into the match as their experienced central defender Terry Butcher suffered an injury and had to be replaced by the young Mark Wright from Derby County. After only six minutes the English central defense, unable to get the ball away, conceded Ireland's first goal: Kevin Moran kicked a high ball towards the right side of the English penalty area. Tony Galvin put in a cross that an English central defender just managed to shoot up in the air. John Aldridge headed the ball coming down to Ray Houghton who completely unmarked headed the ball into goal for a very unexpected Irish lead. England seemed in shock, and produced nothing in the first half, as Ireland waited for the English to attack. In the second half England started putting more pressure, but the biggest chance came to the Irish when Ronnie Wheelan had an excellent volley shot that hit the English crossbar. With England putting more pressure Pat Bonner stepped into the match when his hard-fighting defense was beaten: twice he saved shots from Gary Lineker who had gotten through, and he also had an outstanding save on a shot by Bryan Robson. But as most fans watching, it seemed like the Irish more and more believed that this would be their game, and in the end it was a deserved and hard-fought victory for the side's debut in a major tournament. Ireland then tied the USSR and was close to making it to the semi-finals. England on the other hand lost its following two matches and exited the tournament with three defeats.

Go Tahiti!

The Confederations Cup is on! While it promises to be one of the most interesting Confederations Cup ever, the opening match between Brazil and Japan was a disappointment. Brazil did just what they had to do to defeat a poor Japanese side 3-0. While the Japanese were indeed a huge disappointment one did not have the feeling that Brazil was feeling comfortable. Neymar's first goal was spectacular, and the two other goals were efficient given that Brazil did not create that much. It will be interesting to see them against better sides, because there are surely better sides than Japan today!
Tomorrow there will be two fascinating matches: Mexico will face Italy and Spain take on Uruguay. Mexico will want to improve on their poor goal scoring record, while Italy is finally caring about the Confederations Cup. Spain is also testing some new constellations and should be hungry to win this tournament that eluded them four years ago when they were eliminated by the USA. In the meantime Uruguay will want to continue their resurgence and show they are as good as in South Africa.
But with all these fantastic teams I think and hope that the darling of all neutral football fans will be Tahiti. They will never make it to a World Cup, and their side of amateurs is living the dream of any football player who never dreamed of playing against these teams. I truly hope they do not become the walkover everyone is expecting, but can put up a fight against all these footballing giants!
Go Tahiti!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The revival of the Charrua

Great times are known to be great because they rise to the occasion. Defending South American champions Uruguay have had a difficult qualifying campaign for the World Cup in Brazil, and it had come down to them needing a victory away to Venezuela, who is desperately trying to clinch its first time in a world cup.
In the first match away Uruguay and Venezuela tied 1-1, and Uruguay had been dreadful away, winning no matches and only getting one tie.
But with all these odds against them, the Uruguayans rose to the occasion. Venezuela started well and had some fine chances, but it was Edison Cavani, who was a constant threat to the Venezuelans, who scored when Venezuela seemed to be playing best. For the rest of the match Uruguay played safely in defense, with dangerous counterattacks and intelligence to take home a much-needed victory.
Uruguay are now on the fifth play-off spot with 16 points, same as Venezuela, but better goal difference and one match less. Venezuela, whose world cup participation no longer depends on themselves has three matches left, the next one a crucial away clash against Chile, who took fourth spot by defeating Bolivia 3-1 tonight.
I do not mind if Venezuela does not qualify to the world cup. While well-organised and difficult to play against, Venezuela is not a side that will add anything new to the football world in Brazil 2014. I want Uruguay and Chile, countries with a proud footballing history, to participate instead of a country that is more into baseball and whose fans are generally ignorant about football.
Today Uruguay showed that they belong more in Brazil than Venezuela.

Good thing they do not show Danish football in South America

I did not watch Denmark's humiliating defeat to Armenia in today's world cup qualifier in Copenhagen, so I cannot comment much on the actual match. That said, to lose 0-4 at home to the world's number 89 is a debacle no matter how you turn it. Denmark is effectively out of the world cup and in any country they should seriously consider whether Morten Olsen should continue as coach. Even though the Danish talent pool is small, his choices are what have left Denmark out.
Pathetic. Good thing there is quality football to watch in South America.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Venezuelan banter

There is not much "friendly" banter in South America, where tempers swell. And as we know in Europe, banter can sometimes go overboard, but fortunately it is mostly a thing where one teases your coming opponents for being useless drunks and crybabies before a match.
Like all FC Copenhagen fans ;)
So I found it quite amusing when the Bolivian football star,  Marco Etcheverry ("el Diablo"), before the world qualifying match Bolivia-Venezuela in La Paz next Friday, said that Venezuela "in my view are the best to make soap operas, with the Mexicans, and they have the best Miss Universes, for which I congratulate them", but then went on to say that Venezuela has done nothing on the football pitch and will leave La Paz "on their knees". (
(Etcheverry was wrong on one point: Venezuelan soap operas are much better than the Mexican ones!)
When Venezuela was facing Chile earlier in the qualification, some Chilean reporters said the same and it also infuriated many Venezuelans, and I find this amazing: it is so innocent and funny that it should be rather laughed at than angered at! Normally Venezuelans are funny and quick-witted, but here they continue to act rather like little offended children.
I must admit find it harder and harder to support Venezuela in their effort to qualify to their first world cup given how sensitive people are about it, and how offended they get when one criticises anything about their team or fans.
That said, since the Venezuelans apparently need it, I help them by providing my top-five come-back phrases to use on the Bolivians:
  • 5) Yeah, you made it to one world cup. Congratulations. 20 years ago. Wow. How did you do in it anyway?
  • 4) At least we do not need to play at 4000 meters to win.
  • 3) Even though we do not play at 4000 meters, we do win at home anyway.
  • 2) We may "only" be fifth in the qualification group. But where are you? We never look below us.
  • 1) There will surely be another Venezuelan Miss Universe someday, but there will NEVER be a Bolivian Miss Universe.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Is Neymar that good?

One of the many interesting things in today's clash in a new Maracana Stadium between England and Brazil was to see how Neymar, who has just been signed by mighty FC Barcelona, might do against English defenders.
In the first half Neymar and the entire Brazilian team were far superior to an English side that the South American commentators where I watched it, were rightly quite unimpressed about. But a few changes in the second half and it seemed that England got Brazil under control, and a 2-2 draw was in the end a pretty good result.
And what about Neymar? I think that like most of Brazil's team he fell back into a comfortable life, believing that the match was won before it ended. That is why Brazil will not be world champions. They made the same mistake in the Olympics and they have not learned the lesson.
Neymar is a hugely gifted player. He has been doing spectacularly for Santos, but in the national team he has done nothing when it counts, neither at the Olympics or Copa America. And in Europe he will be up against completely different defenders, and will not be protected by the referees. I do not believe he has the mentality or discipline to be worth all the hype, and I believe that rather like Robinho, he will be a nomad of big European sides, without breaking through in any, but will be remembered as just another really good Brazilian player. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

The lack of ambition

When James Rodriguez from FC Porto, one of the most interesting players in the world right now, last week announced that he was changing to AS Monaco I thought: "What a waste of a good player! He could have gone to any top side in Europe!"
But Monaco, with a billionaire Russian behind it, Dmitri Rybolovlev, has money, lots of money, for players who have no ambition.
One of these players is Radamel Falcao.
In the last few years Falcao has been a scoring machine for FC Porto and Atletico Madrid respectively, winning two Europa League titles (and the first player to score in two Europa League finals in a row), and is largely considered one of the best center-forwards in the world at the time. He could surely have chosen to play for almost any big club in Europe; clubs that would be fighting in the Champions League. But not so with AS Monaco: the side has just been promoted to Ligue 1, and Mr. Rybolovlev has invested heavily to bring in new players (other signing have been Joao Moutinho and Ricardo Carvalho), without doubt with a hope to be fighting for the French title next season against sides such as Paris St. Germain, Olympique Marseille and Lyon.
What a waste of great talent for the sake of money.

New managers all around!

With Guardiola's signing of Bayern Munich and Alex Ferguson's goodbye at Manchester United there have already been huge managing news in European football. But lately there have been even more interesting news on this front, most notably the exit of Jose Mourinho from Real Madrid. Notwithstanding that Mourinho is a brilliant manager, what he most takes away from Madrid is that the club was indeed bigger than him, something that must hurt his ego. While the team won a lot of matches, the titles eluded them under Mourinho, and that is really the only thing that matters to such a huge club. At the same time, and this is where I part ways with the Portuguese, is that he did not add much positive to the club. No matter what you think of Real Madrid (and I am certainly an anti-Madridista), it is a club know for great football, proud traditions and a gentlemanly attitude to the game (fans have clapped when an opposing team is just too good! Almost no fans in the world do that!), and with players who are known for being gentlemen on and off the pitch. One of these is Iker Casillas; that he is not playing is Mourinho's insult to what Real Madrid wants to stand for.
So where is he going? All bets seem to be a return to the club where he made his first foreign forays, namely Chelsea. Mourinho will always be bigger than Chelsea, a club that said bye to its latest "interim" coach after Rafa Benitez gave them a European title. Rafa Benitez, a well-traveled manager, is in the meantime returning to Italy, where he already coached Inter Milan, but he is now going south, to Napoli, the runners-up in Serie A and Champions League participants next season. It is surely going to be interesting to see what title he takes them to there!
Real Madrid without a coach is a matter for huge speculation: matters seem centered on Carlo Ancelotti and Jupp Heynckes. The problem with Ancelotti is that Paris St. Germain will not free him of his contract, but Heynckes had announced his retirement; a change to a club that he already once led to Champions League glory in 1998, but fired him anyway that same season, is surely going to raise some eyebrows.
A man that will try again with a club that treated him like that is surely worth investing in!
Another interesting change is that of Manuel Pellegrini who will be replacing Roberto Mancini in Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini is a hugely experienced coach who first succeeded as coach in his homeland Chile, at Universidad Catolica, and in LDU Quito in Ecuador, as well as in San Lorenzo and River Plate in Argentina. In all places he got titles, and he then went to Villarreal in Spain, which he took to an unprecedented Champions League semifinal. He then went on to Real Madrid, created a solid side that broke the point season record for the club, but without a title, he was out. I always loved his reflection about Real Madrid: "I didn't have a voice or a vote at Madrid. They sign the best players, but not the best players needed in a certain position. It’s no good having an orchestra with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist. Real Madrid have the best guitarists, but if I ask them to play the piano they won’t be able to do it so well. He (Florentino Pérez) sold players that I considered important. We didn't win the Champions League because we didn't have a squad properly structured to be able to win it."
His time at Malaga was not a success, but now it will be hugely interesting to see what he can do in a club with money, ambition, and in his first non-Spanish speaking country!
But a lot of pressure and interesting new arrangements all around Europe for next season!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bayern Munich champions!

Until Saturday's final Borussia Dortmund was the only undefeated team in the Champions League. Still, Bayern Munich was the slight favourite after taking the German title and played outstanding football in the matches against FC Barcelona and Juventus. But this did not show in the beginning of the final where Dortmund seemed liked the team with most desire to win, and only some outstanding saves by Manuel Neuer kept Bayern Munich in the match. One can only speculate whether Dortmund's attacking force would have been even stronger had Mario Gotze played. But without goals Bayern Munich worked themselves into the match. Arjen Robben missed a couple of excellent chances, and one wondered whether the curse that seems to follow Robben would continue. However, in the last minutes of the match, with the score 1-1, Arjen Robben slipped through the defense and scored the winning goal for a relieved Bayern Munich, for whom losing the third CL final in four years would have been a devastating blow. Jupp Heynckes finished his coaching career with a second CL triumph (his first was as Real Madrid coach), and there will now be enormous pressure on Pep Guardiola when he takes over as new coach: how can he do better that a German championship, a CL triumph and a possible Cup victory (they are playing the final next week)? A pity for Borussia Dortmund, who has been building up a young competitive side for some years. This has already resulted in German championships and Cups, and plays good attacking football. Mario Gotze's farewell for next season will undoubtedly be a huge blow, and the team will also struggle to keep players such as Lewandowski and Marco Reus. But they will be in the CL again next season and will surely continue to be one of the most competitive sides in the tournament. But thanks to both teams for a great final, and congratulations to all Bayern Munich fans out there celebrating with a good pint of beer!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Last time they won: Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are facing one another in what will be an exciting German invasion of Wembley! Both teams share a long national rivalry and play high quality attacking football so the final has all elements to become an epic clash. Furthermore, both teams have already won the Champions League before, and I vividly remember both finals where they won. In 1997 I was in university, and we were in the process of finalizing a heavy group assignment at a group member's place north of Copenhagen. We took the evening off to watch the final between Borussia Dortmund and Juventus. The final was played, of all places, in Munich, and the Italians, with a young superstar called Zinedine Zidane, were probably weak favourites after having eliminated Manchester United. But Dormund, with Ottmar Hitzfeld as coach, started attacking. Karl-Heinz Riedle scored two goals in the first half. In the second half Alessandro Del Piero scored one for Juventus but the young Lars Ricken sealed the victory for Dortmund with a goal 20 seconds after coming on as a substitute. Four years later was the last time Bayern Munich won the Champions League (but they have been in two finals since). I watched the final with my compadre Soren (whom I had also watched the 1997 final with) in a bar in downtown Copenhagen. The Germans were facing my dear Valencia, who started best, went 1-0 up, but ended up losing by penalties and breaking my heart. Incidentally, on the next day I travelled to Valencia but did not talk about football. One thing of the final in 2001 should be noted: the coach of Bayern Munich was Ottmar Hitzfeld! Same manager who four years before had led Dormund to the title. All these years after I will be watching this final in Caracas, Venezuela (who would have thought back then?), and one of these sides will be celebrating as they did many years ago!

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Interim" Chelsea

Chelsea has been up and down over the last few years. In 2011 Carlo Ancelotti was fired as the club "only" made it to second place in the Premier League (the previous year he had led them to their first "Double"). For the start of the 2011-12 season Andre Villas-Boas became manager, and under him team performance dipped with a string of defeats. Villas-Boas was fired in March 2012, and was replaced by "interim" coach Roberto Di Matteo, who in the subsequent months pulled the side up to win the FA Cup and the Champions League in May 2012. One could have been led to think that this would be enough to keep him in the club, but Chelsea's elimination in the first round of the 2012-13 Champions League season (as the first defending champions ever) led Di Matteo to lose his job in November 2012, and a new "interim" manager took over: Rafa Benitez.
And Rafa Benitez stayed as "interim" in spite of continued controversies and criticism, and eventually he announced that he would be leaving at the end of the season in spite of securing a CL spot in the Premier League. In the meantime the team progressed in the Europa League and last night Rafa Benitez led Chelsea to the Europa League title when defeating Benfica 2-1 in Amsterdam. It wasn't pretty: only Benfica inefficiency and an excellent late header by Branislav Ivanovic gave them a victory that must surely have felt somewhat bittersweet for Benitez, who will nevertheless probably not have to look much around for a more steady job.
And Chelsea? Rumors abound about a certain Portuguese gentleman returning to Chelsea. He will probably not have the title "interim", although that may always be the case in Chelsea anyway.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The champions from Paris

Anything can happen in football, but money often is victorious. After 19 years Paris St. Germain again won the French League title after a 1-0 victory over Olympique Lyon (a team that dominated French football with seven league titles in a row until 2008).
In 2012 the Qatar Investment Authority bought the stock majority in Paris St. Germain and made them one of the richest clubs in the world, investing heavily in creating a competitive team. Carlo Ancelotti became coach of a team and some of the players that arrived were Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Maxwell, and even the ageing but ever-present David Beckham. And there is no doubt that the team has been steadily improving, and after finishing second last season they put up a great performance in the CL against FC Barcelona.
Now the title arrived, and it was surely a deserved title. Many people will criticize that it is only a victory of money, and that is surely true. But it is also true that Paris St. Germain was always a great team in a city - one of the greatest cities in the world -, that needs a top level football side. If the French league can avoid the trappings of the Spanish league, the French league will benefit from a strong Paris St. Germain side that will also be great to have in European competitions.
Great new champions, and congratulations to all fans!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Champions and champions

I usually find myself in cool places around the world to watch the FA Cup finals, but this year I found myself in an airplane, and was thus unable to watch a surprising final where Wigan Athletics won a surprising 1-0 victory over Manchester City. Wigan are fighting relegation from the Premier League and this victory is their first FA title ever! Manchester City in the meantime finish a "disappointing" season: second in the Premier League, second in the FA Cup and Champions League would have seemed like a miracle some years ago, but with growth expectations overshadow hope.
Wigan won with hope and no expectations, and must now hope for survival in the Premier League.
But that is what makes English football so great: these things can really happen!
Not so in the Spanish league.
When I finally got home from the airport I watched Espanol and Real Madrid play 1-1 in the Spanish League. This result makes FC Barcelona champions without playing, as Real Madrid can no longer hope to catch up with the Catalonians who will be playing Atletico Madrid later.
No surprises there: not since 2004 has another team than Barcelona or Real Madrid won the league (Valencia), and since then only one team has ended in top-2 (Villarreal in 2008).
Real Madrid can still hope for a title though: next Friday they will be playing Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey final. Atletico are no Wigan, but are still the smaller side against mighty Real Madrid, who will be playing at their home stadium.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The end of an era

Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United after 27 years at the end of this season. He took over in 1986 after a brief stint as Scottish national coach at a time when the club had not taken the English title since 1967. In the first years Manchester United didn't win the title, but steadily improving, Ferguson held on, taking the FA Cup in 1990, and the UEFA Cup winners cup in 1991. And in 1993 Ferguson won his first Premier League title. By the time he retires, he will have led Manchester United to 13 League titles, of the 20 that Manchester United have ever won. Besides the League titles he won five FA Cup titles, four League Cup titles and two historical Champions League titles.
The speculations about who will replace him next season abound, with the favourites being David Moyes and Jose Mourinho. But no matter what no new manager will achieve what Sir Alex Ferguson achieved, and not only Manchester United fans but all football fans should be sad and respectful of the end of one of the impressive eras in football.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Juventus champions!

With a 1-0 victory over Palermo Juventus won their second Italian Serie A title in a row. In spite of Napoli defeating Inter Milan 3-1, the runner-ups cannot catch up with Juventus.
Great for Juventus, who are cementing their place back at the top of the Italian league after their disgraceful season in the lower Serie B league following the "Calciopoli" match fixing scandal.
Napoli will follow them into the Champions League, while AC Milan, Fiorentina, Roma, Udinese and Lazio seem to be fighting for the three CL qualification spots.

The poor men and the champions

I have not been able to watch Brøndby play the entire season, so it was perhaps in place that the match I watched was against the arch-rivals FC Copenhagen, in the match that could make the latter champions. 0-0 was enough to make the Copenhagen team champions with three rounds to go.
In spite of the fact that I have not seen them play this season it was obvious that in spite of the spirit and fight that Brøndby played with, FC Copenhagen are the best side tactically and technically. Brøndby was recently saved from bankruptcy by a massive input of money by fans and supporters, and that is to be admired. That said, when the leadership of the club is talking about European football within a few seasons it seems like they have remained living on planet "Illusion". Tactically Brøndby plays a primitive type of football where high balls are kicked up to a tall (and talented) striker. Technically, the quality of the average player is no better than the lower clubs of the English Championship.
This is not a team that will play European football within a few seasons, so they should just concentrate on surviving, for now, and then on building up a new team by replacing the weaker players.

FC Copenhagen continues to be the powerhouse of Danish football. That they did not win the title last season (FC Nordsjaelland did) was largely a fluke, and the team that was created in 1992 won its 10th title, and the 9th since 2001. With a variation of strong Danish players and foreigners they remain the only team with possibilities to compete decently in Europe, and not get the thrashings FC Nordsjaelland received last season in the CL.
I am not an FC Copenhagen fan, but I recognize them as the strongest and most competitive team in Denmark, and the right chanmpions.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The German final

Without Lionel Messi Barcelona never seemed really to believe in a historic comeback from 0-4 down to Bayern Munich. And without Carles Puyol down in defense FC Barcelona looks like a pretty ordinary side. It must be time for some reflection and perhaps a new coach? Tito Vilanova simply is not cut out for leading the side. While he maybe a product of their football philosophy he made some wrong choices in a match where Bayern Munich's victory was never in danger.
Bayern on the other hand are simply perfect. In all aspects of the game they were superior, and I do not think there has ever been amore resounding semifinal trashing of 7-0 in CL history.
For the first time ever we will now see a purely German final (there have been purely Spanish, English and Italian finals over the last 13 years). At Wembley. Germany will invade London!
Bayern Munich will be favourites against Borussia Dortmund, who in the end suffered more than necessary against Real Madrid. Still, in a final anyone can win (just look at Chelsea last year!), and it will surely be an exciting and well-played final on May 25th!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bundesliga-La Liga 8-1

Many people have been hoping for a Real Madrid-Barcelona CL final, but it seems that they will be wishing again. Last night Bayern Munich destroyed FC Barcelona, and today Borussia Dortmund was again superior to Real Madrid (they defeated them in the first round of this very same tournament) winning a resounding 4-1 victory against the Spaniards on a night when Robert Lewandowski became the first player ever to score four goals against Real Madrid in a European match. At times it seemed Dortmund could have made more goals, and Real Madrid was only saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez and a huge defensive mistake by Mats Hummels that gave Cristiano Ronaldo a free chance to score.
Otherwise, it was a complete debacle for Real Madrid, and it would seem that the final in Wembley could be a Bundesliga final!
And that would be fantastic!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich

With Bayern Munich's power demonstration tonight against FC Barcelona it is obvious that the German side is strong on all its position. But as the great team it is, they want to make sure that the best players come to the club, and today it was announced that Borussia Dortmund's young superstar Mario Gotze is to change to Bayern Munich next season.
Mario Gotze is one of the most exciting young players in the world. Tomorrow he will be facing Ream Madrid in the other CL semifinal, and it therefore seems a bit strange that the announcement was made now. One could even suspect Bayern Munich for speculating about whom they want to play in the final....
No matter that, it is certain that Bayern Munich next season will be an even stronger side, under a new coach Pep Guardiola, and already getting a super player as Mario Gotze.

Mighty Bayern

I knew Bayern Munich was the best side of the four remaining in the CL. And I thought that Barcelona was the weakest side without a working Lionel Messi. But I never thought the difference would have been so large.
Bayern Munich disproved the Barcelona mantra that you need to have the ball to be the better team; the Germans just let the Catalonians pass the ball around, but without fantasy or capacity to do anything with its possession, FC Barcelona begin to look ordinary. And without the real star of the team, Carles Puyol, to dominate defense, Barca basically begin to look like an ordinary side. In almost every attack Bayern Munich were more dangerous; Frank Ribery, Javi Martinez and Arjen Robben (with one goal) were all in complete control of Barcelona, while Thomas Muller (with 2 goals!), was another of the superstars of the side.
FC Barcelona has been considered the best team in the world over the last few years, but with this match they have been pushed from the throne, and although it is not certain yet who will replace them, Bayern Munich are surely candidates.
I cannot believe that Barcelona can recover from this defeat next week.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top ten excuses for Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is surely not the best footballer ever, but the most stupid footballer ever, yes.
That said, I would like to give him a helping hand, so I have some suggestions as excuses he can use to defend himself about his latest outrageous behavior:

10. "Ivanovic put his body into my mouth on purpose!"
9. "Have you not seen the size of my teeth?"
8. "The Europeans do not understand Latin Americans and our culture."
7. "I want to be like Mike (Tyson)"
6. "I thought football was a contact sport?"
5. "Give me some credit! At least I did not racially abuse him!"
4. "I love being suspended. It gives me time to play with myself!"
3. "I want 'La Garra Uruguaya' to be renamed 'La Dentadura Uruguaya'"
2. "As you know, we Uruguayans are known for biting into people..."
1. "'You'll never bite alone'?"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saving Brondby

I must admit that I have not followed the Danish league in detail for ages. Living abroad, with plenty of work and with outstanding leagues to watch in South America, North America and Europe, the Danish league falls a bit in the background.
And the fact that my favourite side, Brondby, has been at the bottom for a couple of years has not helped on the desire to follow the Danish "Super" league...
I therefore had to find out why I was being offered options on Brondby shares when I checked my bank recently. Turns out that the club, on the verge of bankruptcy, is trying to raise 60 Million Danish Crowns through an issuing of shares, where current stockholders receive the right to buy 13 new shares for every share owned.
Believe this: there are few worse investments than investing in a football club! So the stocks worth 80 Euros I bought in years ago was more an emotional investment; to have the feeling that I am still part of the marvelous community that Brondby fans are.
But should I support the stock emission to "save" Brondby and use my options?
The fans have made a webpage calling for fans to contribute so that the club can be "saved": The site is to gather support for the stock emission, but it says really nothing of what "saving" means. Granted, it means that Brondby will not go bankruptcy, and thus not forced down to play in the lower divisions, something that no matter how you see it, will be a huge blow to the atmosphere and excitement of the Danish league. But it seems to me Brondby may go down to the second division anyway (currently they are swerving above relegation), and that to invest in the team may be like pouring water out of the Titanic with a teaspoon...
If I put money into the club, I would like to know what the club wants to do for the future. The team has not been working since Michael Laudrup left in 2006, and a pretty lousy management, sleeping on the misplaced grandeur of the past when Brondby was the "flagship" of European football, let the club be overtaken by petty sides from the middle of nowhere, such as FC Nordsjaelland, Randers and Horsens (!?!?).
I would want a management with their feet on the ground and with a realistic view about what Brondby can achieve over the next 10 years. Frankly, this has to include some hard things to swallow: we are unlikely to win the league in the near future. If we get to play European football we cannot expect to progress beyond the first round.
We are not the 90's Brondby any longer. Wake up.
On they include some famous people that support the club. I have never heard about any of them, except Jan Bartram, a great Danish player from the 1980s who had a rather short career. He is the only footballer I see supporting the club in these difficult moments, and I have to wonder where many of the legends of the club are: Michael Laudrup, Brian Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel, Lars Olsen, Kim Vilfort, Ebbe Sand, Marc Rieper, Allan Nielsen, Daniel Agger....? Legends from Brondby. What do they think about all this?
I am sure that with the talent school, infrastructure and fan-base, Brondby surely can be fighting for the title in the future. But it will take time and realism to rebuild what has been destroyed by lousy management over a long time, and I am not sure I am seeing this in the current "offer" to contribute money to them (which sounds so much better than the fact that they are actually begging).
So what should I do?