Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dortmund's fall

It has not been Borussia Dortmund's season. They have struggled in the German Bundesliga, where they are currently only in 10th place; they are unlikely to play Champions League next season, first time since 2011.
In the Champions league they have had some reason to forget their meager Bundesliga performance, as they won a group ahead of Arsenal, Anderlecht and Galatasaray. In the last-16 though, they have just been destroyed 0-3 at home by a Juventus side that has gotten a thorough revenge for their defeat against the Germans in the legendary 1997 Champions League final.
That said, such a thorough defeat at home can only mean that coach Jurgen Klopp, who has managed Borussia Dortmund since 2008 may be on his way out. It is a pity for a manager who has indeed given so much to Dortmund, but at the same time a club at this level cannot allow such results (considering that Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen fell after fantastic matches, the Dortmund debacle seems so much worse!), and I am certain that Jurgen Klopp will have some excellent offers from other clubs.
It may be time for Mr. Klopp to leave.
In the meantime Juventus are the sole Italian representative in the quarterfinals, largely fruit of hard work, a deadly counter-attack and a splendid Carlos Tevez (who scored two and had one assist today). 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10 Paris guys defeat 12 Chelsea guys

Paris St. Germain showed what it is to fight against a Chelsea team that is difficult to say anything nice about. Chelsea plays arrogantly, as if they could just walk through this match, and with some characters who behave like cheating mafiosi. And on top, the referee was Chelsea's 12th man on the pitch: Ibrahimovic got a tough direct card when all he was doing was trying not to hurt an overeager and overreacting Oscar (who should, together with Diego Costa, have been shown off with more reason), and then gave Chelsea a strange penalty in extra time for an apparent handball by Thiago Silva (I cannot see if he really touches it, but it is not on purpose, and does not change the ball's trajectory).
But Paris St. Germain fought on with admireable, and the only Chelsea player worth of his name, Thibaut Courtois, was the savoiur a couple of times, but even he had to give up as he was sentenced by lousy defending and splendid headers by David Luiz and Thiago Silva.
I think absolutely nobody in Europe will miss Chelsea.
No to Racism.

Legendary Moments

The UEFA Website has a pretty cool competition going right now where you have to vote for your favourite moments of the Champions League. With the (slim) chance of winning tickets to the Champions League final in Berlin, this is something I of course cannot let go. But of course, at the same time, it leads to a more personal reflection on the most memorable (and not necessarily best) moments of this fantastic tournament.
So here are ten memorable moments:
10) Lionel's Messi's one-man-show against Bayer Leverkusen in 2011
9) Bayern Munich's first half against Roma in 2014, which I watched in an airport before boarding a plane, but which is probably the best I have ever seen a team play in one half.
8) Rabah Madjer's heal goal for FC Porto in the 1987 final against Bayern Munich is a goal that is imprinted in my mind
7) Manchester United's late 2-1 victory in the 1999 final, which made me feel sorry for a Bayern Munich side that had played better throughout the match.
6) Bayern Munich's 2001 penalty victory in the final over Valencia which made me feel sorry for myself.
5) Chelsea-Liverpool's 4-4 quarterfinal in 2009.
4) The incredible final between Liverpool and AC Milan in 2005.
3) First time I was at the legendary Anfield was in December 2013, to see the great Liverpool against Basel in the Champions League. Incredible to be there, although Liverpool were not so great that day.
2) In 2000 when Valencia defeated FC Barcelona 4-1 in the semifinals of the tournament. 
1) The first Champions League match I went to was in Copenhagen in 1999 when Brøndby faced Bayern Munich in the first round. Allan Ravn gave Brøndby the victory and myself an out-of-body experience.

That said, I could think of quite a few more as I finish this list!!! The only ones I am completely sure about are the top 4.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

To fall with honour

Everyone will be talking about how poor Real Madrid were. Indeed, it is incredible that a coach like Carlo Ancelotti cannot motivate his players to play half-decently in the last-16 of the Champions League (arrogant fools perhaps do not realize that there are no bad teams at this level!), and continues to play with four offensive players when the entire defensive line is failing miserably (thank Modric he is back).
But more interesting is to dwell on a team that according to most had nothing to play for today. After losing 0-2 at home everyone doomed Schalke 04 out of the tournament; the match in Madrid a mere walkover. But Schalke 04 has shown that if you have to fall, fall with honour!
Indeed Real Madrid were bad, but it was also because Schalke played with an optimism and style that showed what football is all about, and gave a great show to their fantastic fans, who wasted nothing in coming all the way to Madrid. 3-4 victory against a Madrid team (among the 'best' in the world) that was hanging on to the tournament at home!
And while there were some great Schalke players I have to name two youngsters that I think have a great future ahead of them: Max Meyer and Leroy Sane were splendid, with the latter scoring a fantastic goal. Both are 19 years old, and both show that Germany is producing more and more fantastic young players than anyone else!
Schalke 04 fell with honour and will be missed.
Real Madrid is in the next round with no honour.
Today I became a bit of a Schalke fan.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Luis Suarez' and Barcelona's comeback

Starting in Barcelona was bound to be difficult for Luis Suarez, notably after his suspension for his famous bite in the World Cup. And much criticism was initially poured on him after his impressive goal-scoring record from Liverpool has not followed suit in Barcelona.
But as much as Suarez is a dislikeable character, his work ethic and skills call for respect, and that has now finally begun to shine through in an FC Barcelona whose South American attacking trio of Neymar-Messi-Suarez looks ever more awesome.
Yesterday Barcelona took first place in La Liga: Real Madrid lost to Athletic Bilbao, and the Catalonians destroyed Rayo Vallecano 6-1 to go on top. Messi scored three goals, and continues being a goal machine with 30 goals (equaling the ever-impressive Cristiano Ronaldo), but the most impressive was Luis Suarez, despite scoring "only" twice. With Messi given a more free role up front, Luis Suarez is more of a supporting player than he was at Liverpool. That said, in that position he is becoming more and more impressive. He works hard, creates a lot of chances, opens spaces for Messi and Neymar, and even has an impressive record on assists (third in the league after Messi and Ronaldo).
People were talking of a Barcelona crisis in 2014, but the club is now top of the league, in the Cup final, and seem poised for a Champions League quarterfinal.
And if anything, Luis Suarez has shown that he is a worthy and important piece of this Barcelona comeback.

Friday, March 06, 2015

A November World Cup?

I have been too busy on non-Football things lately, but have followed the discussion on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being played in November according to FIFA.
Notwithstanding the allegations of corruption and the fact that this seems not to have been discussed during the selection process (?), I have to think like a football fan. First of all, let us not be hypocrites: surely temperatures in Qatar must be high, but we have demanded inhuman conditions for footballers in other World Cup: high temperatures, high altitude or even bad pitches are nothing new in the World Cup. So that is not really the main reason for me...

The World Cup is the reason I started watching football. The passion and intensity of a one month full of football was irresistible for me, and today the event still is very very special: the way an entire planet comes together around guys kicking a ball is fascinating, and if anything, the passion has only increased with media and crazy nationalism.
The World Cup is not the same any longer though.
While most of the best players play in a World Cup, the quality of football is at best mediocre, and the winners are surely not the best team in the world, nor the best country in the world, but the best short-term collective of footballers with a common passport. As such, the World Cup is a wonderful event every four years, during the summer months, when there is no other football!
That is my problem: November is a month when I want to focus on the Champions League, the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga, yes, even the Danish League, all of which are really of much better quality than the World Cup!
I am sorry, I have reached a stage in my life where quality football comes first, and in November 2022 it seems I will lose the opportunity to watch good football for another second-rate over-hyped World Cup.
But I will watch it.