Thursday, March 29, 2018

A ticket for me?

I have seen in the news that most European leaders and Royals will not attend the World Cup due to some alleged political case against Russia. While all these great and intelligent world leaders seem to be riling against one another, a small average guy like me is still hoping to get a ticket for the World Cup. I can take one of these leftover tickets. I will pay for it. I may not be a world leader, intelligent, nor even special in any way. But I just really want to go to a World Cup.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The worst Argentina ever

Recently a friend said to me that Maradona had made a bad team World Champion, and that Messi could make this Argentina World Champion. I completely disagreed: Compare the Argentina of 1986 without Maradona with the Argentina of 2018 without Messi, and you will see that the 1986 side was far superior to the spoiled mediocrity that Argentina is today.
Argentina in 1986 did not have the world's greatest players, but they had a solid team, that Maradona made the best of all. Without Maradona Argentina had good and experienced players such as Jorge Valdano (who contrary to one guy named Higuain would not miss the chances he got), Oscar Ruggeri (who was to become a solid Real Madrid defender), Jose Luis Brown (who replaced the veteran Daniel Passarella), as well as a strong midfield with players such as Jorge Burruchaga, Ricardo Giusti, Sergio Batista and Julio Olarticoechea. Carlos Bilardo was a cynical but organised manager, who knew what he had and what he wanted.
Maradona, with his strong leadership and indisputable skills, brought this team to the pinnacle of world football amid a number of teams that were probably better.
Argentina today has a lot of overpaid and overrated players. And Messi is indeed the world's best player, who has made his name in the Champions League and in a Barcelona team where he has an outstanding team around him. Rather than Maradona, Messi is perhaps better compared to George Weah, who in the 1990s was also the best of the world, but never managed to lift his national team. And unlike Maradona (or Weah), Messi may be brilliant but is not a born leader. He can win for the team (like when he alone qualified them for the World Cup), but he cannot lift the rest of the team to perform. The other Argentine players are simply not good enough.
Finally, Argentina has a manager in Jorge Sampaoli who has no plan with the team beyond "pass it to Messi".
Today, the debacle that is waiting to happen got its first warning when Argentina (without Messi) was thoroughly destroyed 6-1 by Spain. The same Spain that normally has difficulty scoring goals had no problem outclassing an Argentine defense that is barely worthy of being called a defense. In the end this is Argentina's biggest problem compared to 1986: back then Bilardo's defense gave little if anything away. Today, the defense is an open door which I doubt Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria will be unable to not score against, no matter how hard they try not to (and why would they...?).

Friday, March 16, 2018

UEFA Champions League quarterfinals draw

Exciting times in football! The quarterfinals following the draw today are as follows:
  • FC Barcelona-Roma: The Italians managed to squeeze past Shakhtar Donetsk and are facing mighty Messi, who defeated Chelsea in the previous round scoring his impressive goal number 100 in the CL. The Catalans are surely the favourites, and Roma can play almost without the pressure of expectations.
  • Sevilla-Bayern Munich: One could argue that this will be Sevilla's first real test after they defeated a very poor Manchester United in Old Trafford. United were so poor one can only be happy not to see them facing Bayern Munich, who took out Besiktas with ease, winning 5-0 and 1-3 respectively. The Germans are favourites, but one has to wonder if there is more in Sevilla, who after years of success in the Europa League, may now be looking for CL success.
  • Real Madrid-Juventus: A repeat of last year's final, when Real Madrid trounced Juventus. Real Madrid have only this title to play for this year, while Juventus are not looking as strong as they were last year. That said, this is an unpredictable match: while Real Madrid are favourites, Juventus showed with their comeback against Tottenham that they will always be a team to be reckoned with.
  • Liverpool-Manchester City: This should be a great match as it features two of the most attacking and entertaining teams of the moment. Add the local rivalry and the high profile managers of the clubs, and this is a must-see match with an unpredictable outcome. Both sides have been outstanding in the CL, easily getting past their last-16 opponents. In the Premier League, Manchester City is leading, and that may make them slight favourites, but they have already lost to Liverpool in the league.
We are eagerly awaiting for April to arrive!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

MLS-Liga MX semifinals

As expected, America defeated Tauro, and will be facing Toronto FC in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. In the meantime, the other semifinal did not go well for the MLS side Seattle Sounders, who went out squarely to defend their 1-0 lead from the first match against Chivas Guadalajara. It was not nice to watch, but seemed to be working until five minutes into the second half when Oswaldo Alanis brought Chivas ahead. The US side had no response against their American counterparts who just continued attacking, and ended up winning a not too wide 3-0 victory. The 3-0 goal by the young Jose de Jesus Godinez muts be mentioned as an outstanding heal-goal.
Chivas will face New York Red Bulls, who are probably slight favourities, but should not lean back and defend as lazily as Seattle Sounders did.  I have not been impressed about Seattle who, if they really intend to be a big side, should be able to do better against a Chivas side that is in deep crisis in the Mexican league.
The final of the CONCACAF Champions league could potentially be an MLS-Liga MX final or a purely MLS final. Or, perhaps most interestingly, would be a Superclasico final between America and Chivas!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

MLS-Liga MX 2-0

The first of four Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals were decided today, and they were two matches between MLS sides New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC, and Liga MX sides Tijuana and Tigres UANL, respectively.
New York Red Bulls had a 0-2 away advantage after a hard-fought and lucky away win. Tijuana attacked from the start, and even went ahead 0-1, but the New Yorkers were unforgiving in the counter-attack and won 3-1, taking the first semifinal spot for MLS. Toronto were 2-1 ahead before going to "El Volcan" in Nueva Leon. Toronto defended their lead, but were strong in counter-attack as Tigres pushed more and more. In the end Tigres won 3-2, but this was not enough, and Toronto are in the semifinals, second MLS team.
Tomorrow Seattle Sounders, holding a 1-0 lead, are likely to become the third MLS team against a Chivas Guadalajara side that is playing awful. This will mean that there are three MLS sides in the semifinals, and one Mexican, as America are likely to progress from their 4-0 lead against Tauro, from Panama.
America are surely a strong side, but after having watched the MLS sides, I would put money on this being the first year that MLS shows that it is better than the Mexican League.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trying to get a ticket for the World Cup

I did not get a ticket for Russia. I had applied for two matches, and it was a no. It is in fact more depressing than I thought it would be. This is my last chance to go to a World Cup, and it will not turn out. I am thinking of cancelling my summer vacations; vacations at all...

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Juventus rises

After Juventus disappointing 2-2 at home to Tottenham in the first leg, most people were expecting Tottenham, who were undefeated in the CL, to put the last nail in the ageing Juvnetus side. And after first half it surely looked they were on the way to the quarterfinals as a splendid Son Heung Min brought them ahead 1-0. Tottenham were the best team in the first half, but the experience of Juventus players and the intelligence of Massimiliano Allegri proved too much for Tottenham.
Allegri introduced Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner to give more power on the flanks, where Tottenham had shown some weakness. And this changed the match. Shortly after the players were introduced, Gonzalo Higuain first made it 1-1, and Paolo Dybala made it 1-2. Even though Tottenham attacked heroically, Juventus were just too experienced, with a splendid veteran Giorgio Chiellini taking everything in central defense.
Another example that in football experience and intelligence counts most.
This was the first match Tottenham lost in this seasons' CL, which must make it so much more bitter for the English side. Nevertheless, no neutral football fan can be disappointed that Juventus are in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Welcome to Tijuana

Club Tijuana hosted New York Red Bulls in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. A good result for the home team was crucial, but the New Yorkers were welcomed in Tijuana and took everything back to the USA on their trip to the other side of the Rio Grande. NY Red Bulls were not that impressive, but efficient: Bradley Wright-Phillips scored both goals in what were almost the only chances they created, but most impressive of all was the NY goalkeeper Luis Robles, who, when Tijuana were attacking the most, came up with some incredible saves.
Tijuana supposedly has one of the best defenses in the Mexican League, but will need not just that, but also to score against Robles in New York. Expect NY Red Bulls in the semifinals, where they will face the winner of Chivas Guadalajara-Seattle Sounders.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Wishing Neymar a speedy recovery

Neymar is injured, and will be missing Paris St. Germain's end of the season. While the Parisians seem to be heading to the French title anyway, Neymar will be sorely missed next week when the Paris sides takes on Real Madrid to try to come back from their 1-3 away defeat. I think a lot of people think that the task will be further uphill for PSG without the skills of Neymar. Me included.
While it does seem that Neymar will be ready for the World Cup, there seem to be some rumours that he will not make it. I have no doubt that they will make everything to get him ready, and I am certain we will see him. But the question is whether he, coming back from an injury, will be the "same" Neymar, expected to do great things.
If he is not, it will indeed be a loss for Brazil and for Football, in that order, so with that, I wish Neymar a speedy recovery!!!!

CONCACAF Champions League play-offs

The CONCACAF Champions League has reached the round of 16, and tonight the team from El Salvador, Santa Tecla, was hoping to make an upset against the MLS side Seattle Sounders after winning 2-1 in El Salvador. After a good first half, the Salvadoreans fell apart deep into the second half, and lost 4-0.
Very disappointing but at the same time it was a good show against an MLS side which, as all MLS sides, think they are much better than they are...
Seattle Sounders will face Chivas Guadalajara in the quarterfinals. Chivas are in a deep crisis in the Mexican League; they are unlikely to make the play-offs and in reality Champions League are their only hope for a title. While this could be the time for Sounders to be facing a Chivas side in crisis, one has to consider the absolute dominance by Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champions League: of the four Mexican sides participating, all have made it to the quarterfinals. Since the tournament was introduced in 2008, it has been won by Mexican sides every single year. In fact, in all but two years (2010 and 2015) the final has been between Mexican sides. In 2016, all four semi-finalists were Mexican sides. This just illustrates that the Mexican League remains far superior to any league in the CONCACAF region, including the MLS, and when MLS sides compare themselves to other sides, they should look to smaller leagues than the Mexican, which is certainly the much stronger than the MLS.
The coming quarterfinals of the tournament will see the following clashes:
  • Club America-Tauro
  • Toronto FC-Tigres UANL
  • Tijuana-New York Red Bulls
  • Seattle Sounders-Guadalajara
I hope particularly Tigres UANL through, after the fantastic final I watched them play in December last year. I also hope Chivas destroy Seattle, avenging Santa Tecla, and saving their poor season.