Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chapecoense tragedy

Football often brings people together, and today football fans all over the world have been brought together in mourning of the tragic plane crash in Colombia which has killed most of the Chapecoense team, who were on the way to play their first ever Copa Sudamericana against Atletico Nacional in Medellin.
Flight accidents have before hit the world football family: 1949, when the Torino side perished in a crash; the 1958 crash in Munich, which killed most of the Manchester United team; and the 1993 crash which killed the Zambian national team.

As Atletico Nacional just said in a statement: "De nuestra parte, y para siempre, Chapecoense Campeón de la Copa Sudamericana 2016."

Champions forever.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Klinsmann out

Five years with Jurgen Klinsmann of the US National Team ended with Klinsmann being fired. In World Cup qualification USA is last after defeats to Mexico 1-2 at home, and a 4-0 trashing by Costa Rica.
Klinsmann was hired amid great expectations, and despite some improvements, I think it has been disappointing, given the potential of the US. It all seemed to start well with a victory in the 2013 Gold Cup and World Cup qualification. In the World Cup they made it to the last 16, but it was not impressive at all, and having watched US in other tournaments, this team was not impressive: they rode on a defensive wave, that was only strengthened by a great goalkeeper. But when it counted, against Belgium in particular, US looked without ideas.
In 2015 USA only made it to fourth of the Gold Cup, losing to Jamaica and Panama. At this point USA seemed like a side that arrogantly thought they were too good for CONCACAF, but obviously were far below the big boys. A semifinal spot at the 2015 Copa America Centenario did nothing to take away this impression when USA lost 4-0 to Argentina.
The last defeats are just a confirmation of how far USA is from its potential. Klinsmann's replacement is Bruce Arena, who also coached USA from 1998 to 2006, which was plausibly the period of most advances for US football, most memorably illustrated by their 2002 World Cup quarterfinal, where they fully had the quality to be among the 8 best in the world.
Bruce Arena has been away for a while, but he has the quality to take US back up from the last spot in World Cup qualifiers.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The potential of Manchester City

What a difference from the match two weeks ago in Barcelona between FC Barcelona and Manchester City! With Willy Caballero on goal the Manchester City defense also looked to have more confidence than with the hapless Claudio Bravo (who in my view cost the match two weeks ago), and the decisions showed that Pep Guardiola is perhaps more cynical and willing to change the style he has always promoted since his Barcelona days when the situation calls for it.
It all seemed to be going Barcelona's way in the first half when they went ahead 1-0, with Gundogan equalizing before half-time. In the second half Manchester City were a transformed side, and their energy and high pressure gave them their well-deserved first victory ever over FC Barcelona, and good chances to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan (who scored one and two goals respectively) were simply fantastic, far overshadowing the FC Barcelona holy trinity of Messi, Neymar and Suarez (despite Messi's exquisite first half counter attacking goal on a pass by Neymar).
The match shows the potential of Manchester City: they have had a great team for years, but some kind of minority complex has continued to haunt them. If they get beyond that mental constraint, they could eventually reach the very top.
Despite the defeat FC Barcelona remains favourites for the title: they still have a splendid side, but Manchester City exposed some of its weaknesses in midfield and defense, as well as the lack of depth in some of their replacements. They seem to depend too much on their holy trinity.