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.