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!