Thursday, January 31, 2013

African Quarterfinals

With the time difference I have not had much chance to watch the Africa Cup of Nations. A couple of days ago I saw Nigeria's two penalty victory against Ethiopia in Group C that put the giants in the next round. Nigeria is eager for a success that has eluded the African giants for years, but their team is not looking that strong. The real surprise in group C was Burkina Faso. With 0-0 against the defending champions of Zambia they both won the group and eliminated the champions, an admirable feat, and it will be interesting to see them in the quarterfinals, where they will be up against Togo, while Nigeria will have it difficult against the favourites of Ivory Coast.
As expected Ivory Coast won their group D ahead of the Togolese. For Togo a 1-1 tie with Tunisia in their last match was enough, given Tunisia's bad score against the Ivorians.
My unapologetically favourite side is Ghana, whom I really hope to see lift the trophy. They were efficient in winning their group B, and will now face one of the surprise teams of the tournament, namely Cape Verde.  They were followed by Mali, a country with a strong team and full of hope given the difficult situation in the country. Mali will have it difficult in the next round as they will face the South African hosts, who won their group A. South Africa has not looked strong though, and that will be Mali's chance.
As mentioned, Cape Verde were a surprise. After ties against South Africa and Morocco, a 91st minute goal by Heldon Ramos put them in the quarterfinals in their first African Cup of Nations ever, a great feat by the small island nation!
The quarterfinals this weekend look as follows:
  • South Africa-Mali
  • Ghana-Cape Verde
  • Ivory Coast-Nigeria
  • Burkina Faso-Togo

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ghana on the way

I have unfortunately not had much chance of watching the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. Not just because I miss the vuvuzelas, but also because of the great teams playing!
A few days ago I managed to watch a shaky Ivory Coast side defeat Togo 2-1 on a late goal by Gervinho. While Togo had deserved better, the Ivorians must surely up their game if they are not to be disappointed yet again in a big tournament, which looks to be the great Didier Drogba's last one!
My favourite team, as always, is Ghana. Again, I am full of hope that this time the Black Stars can go all the way, and show that if anyone, the title belongs to them, as the African team that did best in the last World Cup.
Ghana started with 2-2 against DR Congo, in a match where they were up 2-0, and did not manage to hold on. Today they were up against a strong and highly motivated Mali side that surely had the capacity to shake the Ghanaians. It was not a fantastic match. The Ghanaians played disciplined, fought hard, and defended very well after they got ahead 1-0 on a penalty taken by Wakaso. Mali tried, but in vain against the strong Ghanaians.
It wasn't pretty, but it worked, and Ghana is not first in the group with 4 points, and has Niger in their last match, which they should win.
Go Black Stars!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Swansea-Bradford in the League Cup final

Michael Laudrup is one of my favourite players and football gentlemen of all time, and therefore I wish he has success as coach of Swansea, so that one day he may take some great club, like Brondby, back to glory.
So it was with delight that one saw that Swansea eliminated Chelsea (the Champions League winners of last year!) from the League Cup, making it to their first final ever. The match, which ended 0-0 after Swansea had won 0-2 at Stamford Bridge, was overshadowed by a strange incident where the Chelsea defender totally overreacted when a ball-boy totally held on to the ball for too long, and attacked the boy.
Still, this does not take away Swansea's achievement and shot at their first title!
But Swansea is not the greatest surprise in the final. Bradford City, from the English League II, defeated Premier League giants Arsenal, as well as Aston Villa and Wigan to become a sensation in the final. So in spite of Swansea being huge favourites, Laudrup & Co. should not underestimate little Bradford, who will have nothing to lose and everything to fight for!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pep to Munich

We are only a few weeks into the year, but the news today will surely be some of the most surprising and interesting of 2013. Barcelona's former coach, Pep Guardiola has ended speculation about his future (and rumours included Brazil, Manchester United and Chelsea. One has to admire that he did not choose the soap opera of Chelsea) and has signed a contract with none other than the German giants of Bayern Munich from the summer of 2013.
As many were surely expecting Guardiola to go to England or Italy, the news that he will be in the Bundesliga must have surprised many. Still, there is logic to the choice. Contrary to prejudice the German league is quite offensive with a massive amount of young talent, surely also in Bayern Munich. The German giants must at the same time have considered that Guardiola represents a style of football that they will be eager to play, while Guardiola is coming to a club that has the same level of ambitions to win in Europe as Barcelona.
Guardiola has never coached anything but his native club, so it will be hugely interesting to see whether his personality and style can adapt to a completely different footballing culture. There is no doubt though, that he will be under enormous pressure, but at the same time, Guardiola is a cool-headed guy.
Surely Bayern Munich has won some fans with Guardiola as well!