Saturday, January 29, 2022

Colombia on the brink of elimination

 Colombia has had a weak World Cup qualification. After losing 6-1 to Ecuador, the new manager Reinaldo Rueda has struggled to make Colombia score goals, and before the match against Peru, Colombia had not scored a goal for five qualifiers in a row. So Colombia was under pressure at home against Peru, a team that has steadily improved and have chances of qualifying as well.

Under pressure to score Colombia started with an offensive side that counted the veterans Falcao, James and Juan Cuadrado, alongside Rafael Santos Borre and Luis Diaz. Indeed Colombia did all they had to do, except to score a goal: they attacked throughout the match, had possession and chances, but the ball simply refused to go in.

And we all know what happens in football. A defensive Peru scored on their only attempt on goal in the 85th minute when Edison Flores scored at the near post on a shot that David Ospina should have saved (and one may wonder if it was wise to let him play with an apparent injury; the only time he touched the ball in the match was when he had to pick it out of the goal).

Peru implausibly won, and came up on 4th position, ahead of Uruguay on fifth, while Colombia now lingers dangerously on 6th spot. Colombia have three matches left: Argentina (who qualified after their 1-2 away win to Chile), Bolivia and Venezuela, and have to start scoring goals if they are to retain hope of going to Qatar.

Friday, January 28, 2022

CONCACAF likelihood

Although all teams can still theoretically qualify in the CONCACAF Octagonal for the three direct spots for Qatar 2022, it appears more and more likely who the three teams will be, and who will be out after the matches played yesterday.

Canada remains on first spot and is a likely participant in Qatar after defeating Honduras 0-2 in Tegucigalpa. Honduras in the meantime, with three points only, takes the last spot among the eight teams. USA trails Canada by one point after defeating El Salvador 1-0 in Columbus, Ohio, in a match that proved more difficult than expected for the USA. El Salvador is on seventh spot with only 6 points, but they played well, and if they start scoring more goals they would be more competitive.

Mexico has suffered, and suffered yesterday against Jamaica as they were down 1-0 with only 6 minutes to go, but two quick goals gave them a victory, and they remain on third spot, only two points behind Canada. 

That is who I think will qualify in CONCACAF: Canada, USA and Mexico. The order may change a bit, specially when USA and Canada face one another this weekend.

The fourth spot (which gives a play-off) is Panamá's right now, with 14 points. But after Costa Rica defeated them 1-0 yesterday, Costa Rica creeps up to 12 points, and may still take the spot from the Panameños. Both teams have some difficult matches ahead for them, but be sure that both will fight hard for the play-off spot!

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Down with COVID

 As many players go down with COVID, so did I. Disappointingly, as I feel I have gone to extraordinary lengths to not approach people.

Many games in the English Premier League were cancelled due to players with COVID. Not so Manchester City-Chelsea although both teams had players down with COVID, for Chelsea notably defender Andreas Christensen (who may be on the way to Barcelona). But Manchester City were clearly a better side, despite their narrow 1-0 victory on a magnificent strike by Kevin de Bruyne. After the victory Manchester City are 13 points clear of Chelsea on first place, and look like a very safe bet for English champions.

A team that was not down with COVID, but might as well have been was Ghana. The Black Stars had been poor against Gabon, when they hardly showed any attacking prowess, but against the Comoros the Ghana side also showed poor defending, and despite an almost comeback when being down 0-2, they ended up losing 2-3 and a disgraceful exit for Ghana from the AFCON. But at the same time one must congratulate Comoros who took their first victory in their first Africa Cup of Nations (and may at the time of writing have the option of going through as a best third-placed team).

Someone who does not have COVID is Robert Lewandowski, who just won the FIFA Best Player of the Year award, congratulations to him, although in my view some other players were better. That said, I completely agree that Alexia Putellas and Edouard Mendy were the best female player and goalkeeper respectively.

I will be unable to watch football as I have been asked to completely isolate for 12 days. This means that my TV room is a no-go area, as I imprisoned in just two rooms. This is just another downer of this stupid disease.


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Very disappointing Ghana

 The African Cup of Nations is always a great tournament and it is great to be able to watch some of the matches here from El Salvador. Ghana has always been my favorite African team, so I was excited to be able to watch the Black Stars against Gabon. Ghana should be considered one of the outsiders for the title, but lost their first match 0-1 to Morocco, and were thus forced to pull a result against Gabon; preferably a win before their last match against the Comoros (whom Gabon defeated 2-0).

Gabon started the best, but the experienced Ghanaians slowly worked their way into the match and I  one of their few attacks Andrew Ayew scored after getting well away from the defender into a good shooting position. But after this Ghana were a disappointment. In the most outdated and boring catenaccio style the Ghanaians stood back to defend their narrow lead against a Gabonese side that had to be commended for playing their chance. Gabon’s reward and Ghana’s well-deserved punishment came in the 88th minute when Jim Allevinah, Claremont striker, equalized for Gabon. 

It was only then that Ghana again attacked, and they even produced a good chance following a corner, but frankly they deserved to be where they were for having played on the 0-1, instead of attacking more. After the match a huge brawl ensued as the Ghanaian players, sore losers, seemed angry at everyone, and amid the row one player was given a red card. 

Ghana did sadly not win friends on this day, and in their final match against Comoros they must show that they can attack, while hoping that Morocco (who has almost qualified with two wins), defeats a hard-working Gabon.

Friday, January 07, 2022

The return of Eriksen

 I was happy to see that Christian Eriksen has announced his wish to return to football, and that he wants to go to Qatar with Denmark. Following his shocking collapse against Finland in June, things have been quiet around Eriksen, but this week he gave his first interview since the collapse. Besides thanking people for their support and telling about the situation, he announced that he wished to return to football. He will be playing with a pacemaker, which to many may seem impossible (I frankly thought that he would never be able to play), but in fact it appears that it is perfectly possible, and already other sport people do it, most notably the Dutch footballer Daley Blind. However, he will not be able to play in Inter, as the Italian League does not allow it.

So many things will be interesting about Eriksen's return. First of all, what club will take their chances with him: he is a top-quality player, but certainly some clubs will wonder whether he will return to play at the same level after such a shock and long break, besides the numerous health checks that they will probably ask for. Eriksen said he wished to return to the Danish national team, something that we all view with great sympathy. At the same time, if he is not playing at the top level by the time the team is selected the national team manager Kasper Hjulmand could well face a dilemma on whether to select him or not.

All these things said, it is only marvelous to hear that Eriksen is doing well and that he intends to return, and make sure that we all, myself included, will be cheering for Eriksen to have many more years of success on and off the football pitch!