Friday, August 26, 2016

Champions league 2016-2017

The draw has been made for this next season's UEFA Champions League, the greatest football tournament of all. And the groups are as follows:

Group A:
Ambitious bur underperforming Paris St. Germain and Arsenal are the off-hand favourites, but in particular Basel has before been known to pull some surprises

Group B
An interesting group with Napoli and Benfica at very similar level, and Dynamo Kiev being their usual power. Personally I will be supporting Napoli.

Group C:
This group will have great expectations as Guardiola's Manchester City will be face to face with the club he gave greatness, FC Barcelona. Monchengladbach could surprise, but don't bet on it, and expectations are likely low to Celtic.

Group D:
Two of the greats of recent years, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, make this a great group. Add PSV Eindhoven and a yet to show its strength Rostov, and we have a very interesting group.

Group E:
Basically all teams have a good chance of going through in this group, but I am expecting something from Bayer Leverkusen.

Group F:
Two of the greatest teams of recent years, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, will likely be guarantee of a great clash, and one has to tip both to go through.

Group G:
The surprising English champions of Leicester had a good draw for their first Champions League, but they will indeed have to be as good as they can be, notably against FC Porto. Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen are in the tournament to make surprises (and I am not too thrilled about the Danish team).

Group H:
The Italian champions and the Europa League champions are favourites although the Spaniards have traditionally had difficulties in this tournament (and then go on to win the Europa League). Olympique Lyon can always be a threat but are far from what they were 10 years ago. And be sure for a good fight by the Croatians.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Brazil-Germany in the final

This would be a great title for anything, except for the Olympic games...
No matter what, this is what the Olympic final in football for men will be, with big expectations to Brazil to make their first Olympic gold medal in football ever.
Brazil are favourites, but Germany are good. If anyone should know how good Germans are at football it is the Brazilians, but this is an opportunity for Brazil to get a bit revenge from Germany for the defeat in the 2014 World Cup.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Football is like love

Lionel Messi is a sore loser. So am I.
I admit it. I have many times said I will never watch football again when I get depressed after bad results (which has happened more than once...).
But football is like love; you suffer it, but you always return to it.
After Lionel Messi's hugely disappointing defeat to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final (his third final defeat with Argentina in as many years), Lionel Messi announced that he would quit the Argentine National Team. But now Messi has reversed his decision, as he has accepted a call back by the new Argentine Manager Edgardo Bauza to the World Cup qualifiers in September.
This is great.
I am sure Messi will be criticized by many for this, which many will see as inconsistent and hypocritical.
But I understand it, as I am sure any real football fan understands it.
I will now watch football again.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The best doesn't always win

One of the frustrations of football is also its beauty: that just like in life, it is not necessarily the best who wins. That is simply because football is such a varied sports that there are many ways of winning. An excellent example is Portugal's recent victory in the Euro 2016; hardly the best team, rather boring, but one cannot deny their achievement in reaching the title against teams that were better.
Every footballer knows this although it still frustrates them.
In the Olympic football tournament (for women) the defending world champions of USA were eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals after a 1-1 score in ordinary time, and then 4-3 on penalty kicks. This is a major setback for the USA, who had never not reached a semifinal. Sweden's victory was not pretty: they know that USA, with its amazing players, is a better side player for player (if anyone knows it should be the Swedish manager, Pia Sundhage, who four years ago coached the USA to Olympic gold). And to win against such a side they need to be defensive, disciplined, and for all that it is worth, cynical.
That is normally the way to win against better teams, as has been shown again and again. And it was that which the veteran US goalkeeper Hope Solo was sore about when she called the Swedish ladies "cowards".
Not very nice or fair-played said by Hope Solo, who was probably frustrated after the defeat.
I do think that Sweden will have it difficult in reaching the final, although of course they should not be underestimated. In the meantime it is sad to see the excellent USAmericans eliminated, but there is no doubt they will rise again from this setback.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Olympic football - women

The Olympic football tournament is only interesting because of women. Four years ago watching the men was a waste of time, but the women gave us some splendid matches, and this year we have all reasons to expect the same, if not better, after the fantastic Womens' World Cup in Canada.
Favourites are bound to be the defending Olympic and World Champions of USA, who are in group with France, Colombia and New Zealand. Among the team of USA superstars is the incredible Carli Lloyd, but also Ali Krieger, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
Expect USA to make it all the way!
It is a bit disappointing that Japan, in full process of changing their team from the World Cup, did not qualify. Instead, the big challengers for gold will likely be Brazil and Germany.
Brazil is in group with China, Sweden and South Africa, where at least Sweden and China should also be considered contenders. Brazil nevertheless, captained by the legendary Marta, will be under pressure to take a gold medal home for Brazil. Other veterans, as Formiga and Cristiane.
Germany are in a  group with Canada, Australia and Zimbabwe, where Canada should be the one mostly considered favourites alongside the Germans. Germany is captained by the veteran superstar Anja Mittag, and Germany are sure to be contenders for the title.

No matter what, I would highly recommend to watch the womens' tournament rather than the mens', as I believe there will be much more entertainment, drama, and frankly, much better quality in the Women's football tournament.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Olympic football - Men

The Olympic games will be starting this week in Brazil (frankly I think the Olympic games will be great, simply because of Brazilian people, who will make it great despite all the economic and political problems in the country).
As often is the case, men's football is not highly rated, although one country in particular, Brazil, must be considered favourites and will be eager to win at home: Brazil has never won Olympic gold and after the World Cup debacle two years ago, Olympic gold will be a small consolation. Brazil is also bringing Neymar along as one of the three over-23 players allowed. Brazil will be opening against South Africa in a group that also includes Denmark and Iraq.
There are certainly other interesting sides in the 16-team tournament: Argentina, Honduras, Algeria and Portugal are in the same group. Portugal is coming with a strong team, although with no players that were part of the Euro 2016 squad. Argentina has defender Victor Cuesta as one of the over 23, but is otherwise with a team of youngsters, where their highly talented attack will be interesting to see: Angel Correa from Atletico Madrid, Cristian Espinosa from Villarreal and Cristian Pavon from Boca Juniors. Both Honduras and Algeria are with full under 23 sides.
The defending champions of Mexico are in a group with Germany, South Corea and Fiji (one of the few good things about Olympic football is that you can have countries like Fiji participating). Germany comes with another talented sides with veterans Sven and Lars Bender to provide the experience in midfield.
Finally, Sweden, Colombia, Japan and Nigeria are in another interesting group.

All in all, expectations are not great. I thought the men's tournament was particularly boring four years ago, and the most interesting to see is if any new players come about.