Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Champions League elimination round

 The Champions League Group stages (the last ones in this format) have just ended. 

The elimination of two English sides was one of the first surprises: Manchester United were shambles, and ended bottom of Group A, which was totally dominated by Bayern Munich, while FC Copenhagen took first spot after having defeated Galatasaray on a cold day in Copenhagen. Copenhagen, although a reluctant surprise, will now face the defending champions, also from Manchester. City have been awesome, winning all their group matches, and will (hopefully) be too much for FC Copenhagen.

Another English team that ended bottom were Newcastle. After trashing Paris St. Germain, it appeared they had something to offer, but only two draws and three defeats and they were out. It is all the more improbable, because a victory at home in their last match against AC Milan could have put them through as Borussia Dortmund and PSG tied 1-1 (in an exciting match), but AC Milan won, and took third spot.

While the Spanish sides of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid all won their groups, the former greats of Sevilla were as much a shadow of themselves as they have been in this season's La Liga. They ended bottom of the group behind Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven and Lens.

German sides will be represented by three sides: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, while from Italy's Serie A, Napoli, Inter and Lazio have made it through.

All in all we are looking at some interesting knock-out matches starting in February:

  • FC Porto-Arsenal
  • Napoli-FC Barcelona
  • Paris St. Germain-Real Sociedad
  • Inter Milan-Atletico Madrid
  • PSV Eindhoven-Borussia Dortmund
  • Lazio-Bayern Munich
  • FC Copenhagen-Manchester City
  • RB Leipzig-Real Madrid

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Playing like World Champions

 Brazil playing at home to the World Champions, their Argentinean rivals, is always bound to be a dramatic match. The World Cup qualifier a couple of days ago was no exception to the rule, and we even feared that the match would be suspended due to the fan disturbances before the start of the match.

It was sad to watch, but also odd how Brazilian police and stadium authorities appear to have next to no control over fans who are mixed in the stand, and to what the Argentinean players (who admirably rushed to defend their fans) appeared overly excessive reactions by Brazilian police.

Argentina, led by Messi, appeared ready to abandon the match, but in the end the match went ahead. One had to wonder how this dramatic start would affect either side. At least for the case of Argentina, the entire situation seemed to energize them, and in what became a rather dirty match, they were clearly much smarter than the Brazilians.

Brazil pressed high, made a lot of small fouls, specially on a dynamic Rodrigo de Paul who, as Messi largely disappeared from the match, took over the midfield with a fighting spirit, but also with small provocations for the Brazilians, who fell into the trap, and got a lot of yellow cards. At the same time, Brazil's pressure did not shake the Argentinean defense, who played the ball coldly around.

It was an intelligent and fighting Argentine side who got the winning goal on a header by the veteran Nicolas Otamendi following a corner.

Despite losing to Uruguay, Argentina remain head of the table. In the meantime Brazil are in shambles, on sixth spot, behind Ecuador. Were it not because most sides qualify, Brazil would be in risk, but I still think they will qualify.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Bielsa's Uruguay and South American qualifiers

 The South American World Cup qualifiers are ongoing. Argentina's defending World Champions had not lost a game since their World Cup defeat to Saudi Arabia. Yesterday, they played Uruguay at home at la Bombonera (instead of the Monumental, where they usually play, since it had been reserved for one Ms. Taylor Swift). Uruguay has been doing well under their legendary Argentinean manager, Marcelo Bielsa, who has discarded some of the older players such as Luis Suarez and Cavani with success. Last round they defeated Brazil, and this time they defeated the World Champions.

It was a good match with chances for both sides, but in the end Uruguay's relentless high pressure paid off. The first goal was thanks to Matias Viña's high pressure and passing the ball to an open Ronald Araujo. Uruguay's second goal was a perfect counterattack following a Messi loss of the ball, and leaving Darwin Nuñez to outrun Otamendi.

Argentina remain in first spot, but Uruguay are second and under Bielsa appear a renewed side.

In the meantime Brazil are trailing. Having tied Venezuela and lost to Uruguay they needed something from Colombia, but got nothing despite an early lead by Gabriel Martinelli. They had more chances but Colombia pressed forward, and in the end got the victory through two Luis Diaz' headers in the second half. It has been something of a week for Liverpool's Luis Diaz, whose father was released by kidnappers only a couple of days before the match...

Brazil are now in fifth spot in qualification, behind Venezuela, something they are certainly not used to. That said, with more teams in the World Cup, they are still likely to qualify.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Reluctant admiration amid disappointment

 I still consider myself a Valencia fan although the team has over the years gone from disappointment to disappointment. One of these disappointments has been the fan's racism, something that is sadly still too common in Spain. One player who suffered racist attacks in Valencia was Real Madrid's Vinicius Jr.

I certainly supported Valencia against Real Madrid today, and even after Dani Carvajal's early goal for Madrid I hoped that Valencia would equalize, only for Hugo Duro to give us some shameful misses. But Real Madrid were far superior in the end, and a victory of 5-1 was fully deserved, and one could even not help to admire Vinicius Junior who, with two goals, contributed to Valencia's humiliation.

It was a sporting disappointment for a fan like me, but well deserved for Real Madrid in every other respect.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Exciting Premier League

 It all points to a very exciting Premier League. After 6 consecutive victories, Manchester City finally crashed by losing 2-1 to Wolverhampton, showing a league where all teams are competitive. Manchester City remains in first spot though, one point ahead of Tottenham. 

Tottenham defeated Liverpool 2-1 in a dramatic and intense match. Liverpool were looking good until Curtis Jones got a red card, after which Tottenham put pressure and got ahead by the outstanding Son Heung-Min. This happened after Luis Diaz had a goal cancelled by VAR for offside, in what did not look as an offside (the lines the TV channel I watched it on clearly showed no offside, but the VAR never showed the lines, making it all look very suspicious....). But Liverpool pressed on and Cody Gakpo equalised in the dying seconds of the first half.

Tottenham put more pressure in a second half that appeared full of nerves, and for Liverpool's Joel Matip when he scored an own goal in what was literally the last kick of the match in the 96th minute, and giving relief to the home crowd.

Tottenham thus took second spot on goal difference ahead of Arsenal, while Liverpool is on fourth spot with 16 points. Aston Villa and Brighton are fifth and sixth respectively with 15 points each, so all teams can win an exciting Premier League!

Friday, September 29, 2023

Forever blowing bubbles

 I identify with West Ham's song "Bubbles": fortune is always hiding.

Last Sunday I was at a beautiful beach in El Salvador. After a morning walk on the beach, at 7 AM, I went online to watch the match between my dear Brøndby against our arch-rivals, FC Copenhagen, over a delicious cup of Salvadoran coffee. Brøndby has started the season well and could, with a victory, take first spot in the Danish football league, ahead of the Copenhagen side.

It looked good for Brøndby when they went ahead by Josip Radosevic, but Diogo Gonsalves equalised for FCK following a serious mistake by Henrik Heggheim in defense. It was so frustrating when things looked so good.... Then, I celebrated alone on that beach as Ohi Omoijuanfo scored for Brøndby following a great build-up.

2-1, and it looked as Brøndby could do it, although FCK started putting pressure. They put on the 17-year old Swede, Roony Bardghji, who with six minutes left of the match scored twice for FCK, and gave them a 2-3 victory and myself a big disappointment.

Lately it feels everything has been like this match: sometimes doing great things, but then fucking it up completely by being thoughtless. And when things are going well and you start to think that you may succeed, things just go to hell in the end...

Forever blowing bubbles.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Circus Spanish Football Federation

Few people around the world knew who Luis Rubiales was. But the head of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has become a world celebrity following his embarrassing behaviour at the World Cup final, grabbing his crotch and kissing one of the Spanish players, Jenni Hermoso. He has in a rather pathetic apology defended himself with being euphoric at the moment, but at the same time said that he will not step down from his lucrative position as head of the RFEF. This he categorically said in a speech to the RFEF, and was widely clapped by the many machos of the RFEF, such as the Spanish national team manager Jorge Vilda and Luis de la Fuente.

In the meantime player Jenni Hermoso has said that the kiss was not consensual, and been attacked in an official communique by the RFEF. In support, many players, including the entire team of World Champions, has said that they will boycott the national team until the leadership steps down. Rubiales has been suspended by FIFA and has been widely denounced both nationally and internationally.

This is a sad circus. Spain are World Champions and attention goes to these men who live in a previous century. Because let us admit that there are still many men like Rubiales in the world and in particular in the world of football. Men of power who believe they can do anything and behave in any way they want. This is mainly because they have normally been allowed to abuse and misuse. 

If anything good comes out of this circus it is perhaps that the obviousness of men like Rubiales comes to light.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Spain World Champions

Spain have become World Champions defeating England 1-0 on a first half strike by the Real Madrid player Olga Carmona. Only her third goal on the national team, the second having come in the semifinal against Sweden. Spain were the better team throughout the match and deserved the victory. England were saved by a larger defeat by a strong Mary Earps on goal.

Spain have been growing for years with a solid base at FC Barcelona, and despite internal struggles before the tournament they have shown stamina, and if anything, will only grown stronger. Certainly they are the side to defeat right now.

It has been a great World Cup with a lot of surprises and fantastic matches and teams. Thanks to everyone and look forward to the next one!

First title for MiaMessi

Messi has been extraordinary at Inter Miami, contributing to bring a club that had never won anything to new heights. He has scored 10 goals in seven matches, and now Miami has taken its first title as they won the North American Leagues Cup against Nashville FC in the final. Messi scored a spectacular goal in the final to bring Miami ahead, but Fafa Picault equalized for Nashville and the match went into a long-drawn penalty contest that Miami won 10-9.

This surely makes Miami one of the favourites for the MLS title. In a recent interview Messi said politely he was impressed about the level and that he and his family were very happy in Miami. This probably contributes to his high level of performance and the 37 years old Messi has shown that he is still a high level player, although one has to wonder if the level of the opposition is so different from Europe.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The 2023 finalists

Already when we had the four semi-finalists we knew one team that had never won before would be World Champion. And now we have a final with two sides who have never been there before: Spain versus England.

Spain has been a rising power for many years, and the rising power of FC Barcelona (defending CL champions) and Real Madrid has become to transfer to the national team. That said, internal disagreements and their 0-4 loss to Japan in the first round cast some doubt on how far they could get. There is no doubt that they could go all the way now: they defeated Sweden 2-1 in a close-fought match. Only in the 81st minute Spain went ahead by the young Barcelona striker Salma Paralluelo, and while it seemed that they were on their way to victory, Sweden striked back in the 89th minute by Rebecka Blomqvist, and it appeared to be extra time. But one minute later, following a corner kick and poor defending by Sweden, Olga Carmona had a strike from outside the penalty kick that went over the Swedish goalie.

All in all Spain has shown that they are never beaten and will keep fighting, and that is a strength when going into the final.

England are defending European champions and went into the tournament as favourites, but have not looked strong throughout. But that may also be their strength: they have won matches where they have not necessarily looked as the best side. 

This was not the case against Australia. Despite massive home support, the English kept their head cold and looked stronger most of the match despite Australia's brave fight. It was Ella Ann Toone who brought England ahead in the first half on a great strike from inside the penalty area, following the buildup by a strong Alessia Russo. Australia went forward in the second half and it was a fantastic strike by Samantha Kerr that brought them the equaliser (perhaps one of the best goals of the tournament), and renewed hope for Australia. But seven minutes later Lauren Hemp won a clumsy duel with the Australia defender Ellie Carpenter, and pushed the ball past the goalkeeper.

Australia pressed forward and Samantha Kerr had two big chances to equalise, but in the end it was the Arsenal striker Alessia Russo who scored England's third and put England definitively in the final.

It will be a great final with two teams that both have chance. Also the first all-European final since 2003 (when Germany defeated Sweden), and the first final since 2007 without the USA. The poor showing of the USA is witnessed by the fact that this is the first World Cup ever when USA are not among the top-3.

A unique World Cup already!

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Linda Caicedo

 Just read a very interesting article on the BBC on the young Colombian phenomenon Linda Caicedo. Only 18 years old she has a challenging childhood, survived cancer, signed for Real Madrid and become a World Cup celebrity. I surely hope she continues a bright career and that we see more of her in the future!

Monday, August 14, 2023

Premier League 2023-2024 Opening

I had the pleasure of watching an excellent openining match for Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League. Matches like this point to an excellent season ahead, where the usual suspects of Manchester City will be challenged by the likes of Arsenal (who opened with a 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest), Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and even other teams in one of the world´s most competitive league. 

Both Chelsea and Liverpool started well despite them sharing points with 1-1. Liverpool started best with two new signings in midfield, the Argentine Alexis MacAllister and the Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai. It was Luis Diáz who brought Liverpool ahead, and ten minutes later Mohamed Salah had a goal disallowed by VAR. It was one of Chelsea´s many new signings, Frenchman Alexis Disasi, who equalized for Chelsea towards the end of the first half. Second half could have gone to either side. More interesting was to see more of Chelsea´s new signings, many of them young players, such as Levi Colwill, Noclas Jackson, Ian Maatsen, as well as the Ukranian Mykhailo Mudryk, players with a big potential and who will be exciting to follow. 

Summer is over. Let the leagues start!

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Colombia out and other results

 With time difference and limited coverage, it continues to be difficult to follow the World Cup in Australia/ New Zealand. That said, results and matches continue to be very exciting as we have now reached the semifinals.

The first big news was the elimination of the defending champions USA by Sweden in a tense penalty knock-out. It was in fact refreshing: the North Americans were a bit too cock-sure, bordering arrogance, in what they should have known would have been a difficult tournament.

Sweden on the other hand are a team to support (my favourites at this point), and showed their great potential when they eliminated Japan 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Japan, who were looking as potential champions.

Sweden will face Spain, in their first semifinals ever. Spain have been improving throughout the tournament and must be considered a candidate, specially as they defeated a strong Netherlands 2-1 in an exciting quarterfinals, with late goals, and a splendid victory strike by the young Salma Paralluelo (this match I did watch).

England, defending European champions, should be considered favourites as well, although they have not looked that strong. They were outright lucky to defeat Nigeria on penalties (I watched this match); not to say the bad taste they left with Lauren James ugly and deserved red card. In the quarterfinals they also struggled to defeat an exciting Colombia 2-1 (another match I watched wearing my Colombia shirt), whose fans have been the best of the tournament. Colombia largely lost to their own mistakes after Leidy Santos had brought them ahead on a splendid strike. But Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo gave England the victory, and a semifinal where they will face the hosts of Australia, who are there after defeating Denmark and the favourites of France.

Thank you Colombia!

Surely some exciting semifinals:

  • Spain-Sweden
  • Australia-England

Thursday, August 03, 2023

The last-16 at the 2023 World Cup

 I have unfortunately not been able to watch much of the Women’s World Cup 2023; in El Salvador they do not show any matches (they are focusing on the Miss Universe contest to be held in November….), and although I am currently visiting Colombia and have watched a bit more, I remain limited by time difference.

That said, I have followed results closely. Here in Colombia they have been greatly excited by Colombia’s victory over Germany, 2-1 (and not least Linda Caicedo’s splendid goal, that in my view is the best so far in the tournament). Last though, Morocco defeated Colombia 1-0, which by itself would have been a big surprise, but as Germany only managed to tie South Corea 1-1, the surprise is that Colombia wins the group followed by Morocco, who are playing their first World Cup. Germany is eliminated for the first time ever in the group stages of a Women’s World Cup, and one must wonder whether this was not pure arrogance against sides they considered “small”.

I am delighted to see the ladies from outside Europe or North America go through!

Another surprise though, was the elimination of Brazil, who in their last match was unable to defeat Jamaica, who went through on second place behind France, and will face Colombia in the last-16. Brazil also appeared to be too sure of themselves, but the saddest part is the goodbye to the legendary Marta, perhaps the greatest female player of all time, who against Jamaica played her last World Cup match.

Thank you Marta.

Three teams have gone through with maximum points: Japan, England and Sweden, and these all look like some of the strongest. That said, Sweden will face defending champions of USA in the last-16 in what is bound to be a clash of titans. USA have looked shaky, going through  the Netherlands after tying both the Dutch and Portugal, and defeating a weak Vietnam.

African teams have done great, and perhaps this is a sign of things to come: alongside Morocco, South Africa went through behind Sweden after a thrilling 3-2 win over Italy, while Nigeria through behind the hosts of Australia, whom they nevertheless beat 2-3.

The last-16 look as follows:

  • Switzerland-Spain
  • Netherlands-South Africa
  • Japan-Norway
  • Sweden-USA
  • Australia-Denmark
  • France-Morocco
  • Colombia-Jamaica 
  • England-Nigeria

Friday, July 21, 2023

The Greatest World Cup ever

 Today the World Cup has started in New Zealand/Australia. It will be the first women's World Cup with 32 teams competing, and with the immense growth of the women's game in the past decade, it all points to it being  the best World Cup ever.

In the opening match, the hosts from New Zealand pulled a somewhat surprising 1-0 victory over Norway, while the other hosts, Australia, defeated Ireland 1-0.

So good start for the hosts as the World Cup kicks off. 

Living in El Salvador there is scant interest here for the tournament, and although I have so many TV channels, two cable subscriptions, as well as two online TV subscriptions, and still nowhere shows the Women's World Cup in a country as passionate about football as El Salvador. This is very disappointing, but I hope I will be able to watch some of this great tournament!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Win for Mexico, tears for Panama

I enjoyed watching the Gold Cup CONCACAF final between Mexico and Panama. Mexico as biog favourites against a Panamanian side that pressed for their chances, as they had done against USA. But in the end the Mexicans won 1-0 on a late goal by the Feyenoord striker Santi Gimenez. It was deserved because Mexico had managed to put pressure on the Panamanians, who despite it all fought so bravely that they got the respect even of the Mexicans.

This is the ninth title for Mexico. USA has seven, while Canada has one, since the tournament was introduced in 1991. One of the weaknesses is the lack of breadth in the region, dominated completely by Mexico and USA, why it would have been refreshing with a Panamanian victory. That said, Panama leaves with their heads held high, having played a great tournament and we will surely see them again.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Panama in the Gold Cup Final

 Yesterday I had a 4 hour layover at Tocumen airport in Panama City. Fortunately, the layover coincided exactly with the semifinal in the Gold Cup between USA and Panama.

USA are the defending champions, having won two years ago and despite the absence of some players, must have been counted as favourites after defeating Canada in the quarterfinals. Panama had crushed the invitees of Qatar 4-0 to get to the semifinals.

It was a close match throughout, with Panama always having the edge in chances and possession, even having two goals annulled (correctly) for off-side, one in the dying seconds of the match when they really put pressure on the North Americans. It was therefore deserved when in extra time, Ivan Anderson brought Panama ahead. The USA now had to pressure, but at was a magnificent strike by the tournament top scorer Jesus Ferreira whereby the USA were back in the match,

It ended 1-1 and had to go into a dramatic penalty contest where the Panamanians in the bar at the airport were understandably tense. The score was 4-4 after the first four kicks, after misses by Jesus Ferreira and Christian Martinez. After Cristian Roldan missed the 6th US kick, Adalberto Carrasquilla gave the Panamanians a well-deserved winner.

Panama are only in their second final ever (first one in 2013 which they lost to the USA) and this documents the immense strides Panamanian football have been doing under Danish-Spanish Manager Thomas Christiansen. They will face Mexico, who defeated Jamaica 0-3 in the other semifinal. Mexico are always a tuff nut to crack, but they have not looked strong lately and surely Panama has a chance.

I will support them after my pleasant sojourn at the airport.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Wet dynamite

We are entering a period of vacation, and there is not much quality football after the Champions League final. National teams have been playing qualifiers and friendlies, where Spain's victory in the European Nations League after penalty kicks against Croatia is perhaps the most interesting thing that has happened (personally, I missed the match, having even forgotten it was being played).

Last night I watched one of the qualifiers, that between Slovenia and Denmark. Denmark has been struggling since their poor show at the World Cup, and in what should have been an "easy" group of qualification for the Euros 2024 in Germany, Denmark is just on third spot, most famously having lost 3-2 to Kazakhstan in April, after being 0-2 up.

Just last week Denmark managed to defeat Northern Ireland 1-0 in an otherwise poor showing, so their qualifier last night against Slovenia in Ljublana was an opportunity to set things straight. Denmark had the ball most, but looked insecure in defense, where otherwise experienced player like Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjær, and even Kasper Schmeichel, made mistakes that could have cost goals. In the meantime, they did not create many chances in the first half, and while Rasmus Højlund managed to equalize Slovenia's lead by Andraz Sporar, Denmark were not looking secure.

There was clear improvement in the second half, but it appeared more because Slovenia pulled back, but Denmark did not manage to score a winner, and 1-1 was overall an acceptable result.

Despite this, Denmark looks fragile. Too many mistakes and some of the youngsters not taking the lead (except perhaps Rasmus Højlund, who despite needing to grow, has come on strong with six goals in four matches) makes qualification far from guaranteed in a group currently led by Finland and Kazakhstan.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

City's legendary Champions

 Manchester City managed to do what they have been trying to for years: win the Champions League. It was was not elegant, and they played a nervous and poor match despite being full favourites against Inter Milan, who with more precision could or should have scored. In the end Rodri's precise strike in one of the few good moments created by City gave them the victory.

A pity for the Italians, but seen overall, City are the best team in the world right now, particularly proven by their performances against Bayern Munich and Real Madrid earlier in the tournament. Guardiola was given time to forge a strong side of complete players, even though results were absent in the first years, and that is a lot of credit to the club's owners, who now see their team sweep aside all opposition, and become the first team to win the treble since Manchester United in 1999.

So truly a historical victory for a team that will go into history, and congratulations to its fans.

Friday, June 09, 2023


After his spell in PSG and recent announcement that he would leave, Leo Messi is now starting a new chapter in the MLS side Inter Miami. It is obvious that he had other offers, including from FC Barcelona, and millionaire sums from Saudi Arabia. However, Miami appears to be the obvious choice: the city is basically an extension of Latin America where his family can probably settle well, while the football club owned by David Beckham has ambitions in the MLS.

Inter Miami has not fulfilled its ambitions, and have been doing poorly lately. Only one week before the announcement of Messi arrival, the manager Phil Neville was sacked, and an Argentina Javi Morales (with a long career in MLS), was appointed manager. It would appear that with the arrival of Messi a new chapter is to be written into the Miami club's history.

Messi is already a legend, and signing such a legend is sure to bring money and attention to Inter Miami (apparently all season tickets were swiftly sold out), but it will be seen what impact Messi can have on a club that has struggled. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Champions and losers

 Both the Premier League and the Bundesliga ended this weekend. 

In the Premier League we already knew that Manchester City won the league ahead of an Arsenal side that had it all until the last stretch. Liverpool were close to catch Manchester United, but the Manchester side did well in its last stretch and even made it to third place, while Liverpool stayed fifth and will only play the Europa League next season. In the meantime, Newcastle's Arab investment paid off and on fourth place the old club full of traditions will be in the Champions League next season. Birghton is the other big surprise as they will be playing Europa League next season, after taking sixth spot.

The biggest disappointment in my view is in terms of relegation: two big clubs, Leicester and Leeds are being relegated. Leicester only seven years after winning the league in one of the biggest sensations of all time.

I hope both sides will return soon.

The Bundesliga had no champion until the last round, and it all looked set for Borussia Dortmund to take the title from Bayern Munich. All the had to do was win at home to Mainz. Alas, it didn't work. They were down 0-2, missed a penalty, and only managed to equalize in the dying seconds. In the meantime, Bayern Munich was playing Cologne; also needing to win, Jamal Musiala gave them the winning 2-1 goal in the 89th minute, and with that the 11th Bundesliga title in a row, in a league that is evermore onesided.

No league football for a while now....

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Spanish racism

Vinicius Jr., the splendid Brazilian stiker from Real Madrid, has again been victim of racial abuse from fans, most recently against Valencia. This has prompted him to come out with some harsh words about Spanish fans and football authorities, accusing them openly of racism.

He is probably right.

I have been to many games in Spain, and I am sorry to say that my impression is that there is an incredibly high tolerance for racist and xenophobic abuse than in other countries. This does not only includes openly racist chants as the ones that have been used against Vinicius, but certainly also xenophobic chants against South Americans or other nationalities. In a society already stratified by regional divisions, one can discuss the reasons behind the behavior, but the only truth is that it is wrong, and that a player like Vinicius Jr. should never be subject to these insults. And this is where the Spanish football authorities are acting so pathetically: it seems that the only solution they propose is “we have reported the case to the authorities”, when the real solutions must be to stop the matches, award the three points to the away team, and then let them play without spectators.

There is no other way from stopping this shit from happening, and they should take action.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Tragedy at Cuscatlan

 Catastrophes happen too often in football, still today in the 21st century, and sometimes they happen close to where you are. I have been to the Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador a couple of times so I know it is a bit old with some bottlenecks. It was thus with shock that I heard that Saturday night, at the match between Alianza and FAS, in an overcrowded stadium, 12 people died and more than 100 injured from a stampede early on in the match. Authorities appear to have been relatively quick to act, but serious and justified questions are being asked about how this could happen.

It happens too often and too often authorities do not really  act on it. I hope that this will lead to increase securities so that the wonderful Salvadoran fans can continue enjoying their football safely.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Real demolition

Although Manchester City were probably slight favourites against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal, it was somewhat of a surprise that the English side was in fact far superior to the defending champions. 

High pressure, possession and passes, and only Thibaut Courtois saved the Spaniards from only being behind 2-0 at halftime, on two goals by Bernardo Silva. One would have expected Real Madrid to hit back in the second half, but they basically proved powerless against the continued pressure and a total midfield dominance by Manchester City (in particular Rodri was brilliant). Manuel Akanji made it 3-0, while Julian Alvarez sealed it to 4-0 shortly after coming on for Erling Haaland. 

Manchester City will face Inter Milan in the final on June 10th in Istanbul, and are surely favourites to take their first Champions League title. Inter Milan nevertheless looked strong in their defeat against their local rivals from AC Milan, and it is bound to be an exciting and closely fought final.

Friday, May 05, 2023

Napoli champions!

Napoli have had an extraordinary season, and finally today, five games before the end of the league, Napoli are sure to win their third Serie A title ever, and the first time they win without one Diego Armando Maradona on the team... 

One point against Udinese was enough after Victor Osimhen equalized Udinese's early lead. Napoli are 16 points ahead of Lazio, and cannot be overtaken.

Manager Luciano Spalletti has had an extraordinary season, with a fantastic side which I hope will not be purchased out next season. All in all, Italian football is undergoing a resurgence, with two teams in the Champions League semifinals, and such a fantastic Napoli side.

Personally, I am delighted for Napoli, whom I have always considered my darling Italian side!!! Forza Napoli!!!

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Manchester City on the way

 Arsenal has had a great season under Mikel Arteta, and for a long time have been leading the Premier League, which they have not won since 2004. But for the last month mighty Manchester City have been edging closer to the top as Arsenal's run started to falter, and last week Manchester City edged much closer when they defeated Arsenal 4-1 in Manchester, and with two games less than Arsenal, took all cards to get the title into their own hands.

Today they took the first ace in the race to win the title, when they defeated West Ham 3-0, with goals by Nathan Aké, Phil Foden, and mighty Erling Halland, who already has 35 goals, the most in a Premier League season (and surely it will be a few more). With five games to go, and four for Arsenal, Manchester City appears likely to win the title, and also being in the FA Cup Final (where they will face Manchester United) and still in the run for the Champions League (where they will face Real Madrid), it appears that this could still be the greatest season for Pep Guardiola's team.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Sevilla on the way

 Sevilla are the side that has won most Europa League titles, and today they continued on the way to win their 7th title when they took out Manchester United 3-0 at home in Seville. The first match in Manchester had surely been thrown away bu the Reds as they went from 2-0 ahead to a 2-2 result in the last minutes, with captain Harry Maguire scoring an own goal as equalizer. And Maguire was also the culprit at the start of the match when he threw away the ball to Youssef En-Nesyri, and the Moroccan made sure he scored. There was later no marking in the center when Loic Bade made it 2-0 after a corner kick, and towards the end of the match David de Gea also gave away a goal to Youssef En-Nesyri, when he misplaced a kick that the Moroccan easily scored on.

It was a poor showing by the English side, but more so a sure show by the Andalusians, who look at the team to defeat to win the Europa League title.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The semifinalists

The Champions League 2022-23 semifinals will be two of the most exciting semifinals for a long time, with a potentially historical final.

Real Madrid-Manchester City

Surely two of the sides everyone expected to see in the final. The defending champions of Real Madrid have not been as lucky as last season, but have rather looked solid in particular in their defeat of Chelsea. In the meantime Manchester City must surely be seeing themselves as potential winners of their first CL title in particular as they were quick in trashing a usually strong Bayern Munich, who is looking to reconstruct the team under Tuchel. Both of these teams are potential champions.

Inter Milan-AC Milan

After so many years during which Italian teams have been absent, there will surely be a finalist from Italy this year. Last time an Italian team was in the final was Juventus in 2017, and last time an Italian team won was Inter Milan in 2010. Inter are again in the semifinal and it will be a local derby as they face AC Milan, who took out the Seria A leader of Napoli. As everyone knows, when these teams play, anyone can win, so it will surely be a clash to watch.

If the final happens to be Real Madrid-Milan, it will be the two most winning sides in European champions' history, so that itself will be historical. But no matter what happens, history is in the making.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Valencia in crisis

 I have supported Valencia for many years, but the last few years under the ownership of Peter Lim the club appears to have gone from bad to worse. Yesterday I went to a local pub in San Salvador to watch an important home game as Valencia are in a relegation position with only 30 points. So they were in need of a victory at home against a Sevilla side that is neither in a good position.

They were two organised sides, with Valencia having a few more attacks in a closed first half that ended 0-0. But it was a mistake by Dimitry Foulquier in the center that gave Loic Bade a free chance by which he brought Sevilla ahead 0-1. Soon thereafter we had one of those interpretative situations that VAR cannot give a definitive answer for: the ball clearly hit the arm of a Sevilla defender in the penalty area; nowadays these situation often give a penalty, but this time the referee did not give the penalty after checking with VAR. Surprising, as well as disappointing for Valencia, but there is no definitive answer....

Instead of an equalizer, Sevilla went ahead 0-2 on an elegant shot by Suso.

After this, Valencia pressed on, but did not seem to believe in it, and soon after another penalty call went against the side, Ilaix Moriba also got a red card, and the game was effectively over for Valencia.

Valencia are in great risk of relegation, and the red lights must be flashing. Only Elche seems certain of relegation, and only ten points separate numbers 11 to 19 in the table, so there are still chances, but the side must certainly improve and start believing.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Support Lineker

 Former football star and BBC pundit Gary Lineker is in trouble. He is in trouble for being a critical and intelligent person, who says his opinion on a (democratic) government's foul and discriminatory policies. After publishing a comment on Twitter criticising the British government's asylum policy, he has been suspended from the BBC, the public broadcaster of a democratic European country.

Mr. Lineker has every right to express his opinion in a public forum as Twitter. His comments were not discriminatory, foul or objectively wrong (although they were extremely harsh), so that he should get suspended from his job seems like the overreach about expressing opinions that we are seeing all over. Although we all have a duty to be careful about how we express our opinions, we are on a dangerous slide if all opinions are subject to the potential repercussions of losing your job.

Mr. Lineker deserves all support he can get.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

The PSG stars are out again

 Paris St. Germain are a team of superstars, but as everyone knows you cannot construct a team just by superstars, and the Parisians were up against the wall as they faced Bayern Munich in Munich. And Bayern Munich are certainly also a team of superstars, but who to a much greater degree play like a team, and with tactical discipline and intelligence closed down the great potential threats posed by Messi and Mbappé.

PSG had their chances in the first half, and should have been ahead had it not been for a spectacular goalline clearance by Matthijs de Ligt. 0-0 at halftime, PSG still had hope, but Bayern Munich were far superior in the second half, with Eric Choupo-Moting bringing the Germans ahead after a clumsy mistake by Marco Verratti. And as PSG put everything forward, Serge Gnabry elegantly brought Bayern ahead 2-0 in the last minute of the match, and PSG's stars are again out.

This will surely cost Christophe Galtier his job, but the problem goes much deeper that the manager. You need to build a team!

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

VAR overreach

The last-16 Champions League match between Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund was rightfully a highly expected affair, and it was indeed a great match until the VAR intervened. Chelsea went ahead, and equalized the tie, on a somewhat lucky but skillful strike by Raheem Sterling, but at the same time Dortmund were playing a great match that could go to either side.

But for 2-0 for Chelsea I think VAR overreached. Indeed, VAR was generally correct, and it was also correct when the handball inside the area was awarded although it was what would be called a "harsh" call, that in many cases would not be called. But the overreached happened in the penalty kick when Kai Havertz kick on the post had to be retaken because of what was called "encroachment" into the box. Havertz scored in the new kick, and gave Chelsea the victory.

Not an undeserved result by itself, but the "encroachment" call was weird to say the least, because nothing happened that doesn't happen in every penalty kick at that level, and Havertz surely did not miss because of the so-called "encroachment". Instead, it seemed only like Havertz was given a new chance that would never have been given otherwise.

VAR is generally used well at this level, without (too many) ridiculous breaks, but in this case it seemed like total overreach, which was surely a pity for what was otherwise a great match,


Sunday, March 05, 2023

7-0 wow

 Since Erik ten Haag became Manchester United manager the team has done better, and they are currently third in the Premier League. Liverpool in the meantime is fighting to be in the top four. So today’s classic match between the two English giants was a spectacular match for Liverpool, who trashed their rivals 7-0 in what is their biggest victory over Manchester United ever.

It did not look like it would end like that after a tight first half where Liverpool was leading only 1-0 on a magnificent strike by Cody Gakpo. But in the second half goals poured in on de Gea: Darwin Núñez scored twice, Cody Gakpo also scored again, Roberto Firmino scored the last goal, while Mohammed Salah, with two goals, became Liverpool’s all-time Premier League goal scorer.

Liverpool are in fifth place, just behind Tottenham, but is looking like a CL candidate again. Manchester United remain third, but Erik ten Haag probably has some things to think about.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

First Champions League knock out round

Yesterday I escaped from the office to watch the highly expected clash between Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain. In Paris, the highly rated French side (Bayern's lineup had more Frenchmen than the Parisian side showing the true Europeanisation of European football) were supposed to pull a good result before a return match in Munich, but were unable to in a match where the German team was superior throughout the match, and although Donnarumma should have caught Kingsley Coman's winning goal, the victory was fully deserved. The side with Messi, Neymar, Marquinhos, Mbappe, does simply not show any seeworthy and efficient football, and are likely again out of the CL.

In the meantime Tottenham lost 0-1 to AC Milan, but an exciting match awaits back in London.

Today I also managed to watch most of Borussia Dortmund against Chelsea. Chelsea's new players Joao Felix, Enzo Fernandez and Mikhailo Mudryk were all on the pitch and played a fine match where Chelsea could have deserved a goal, but in the end the German side won a good match on a splendid counterattacking goal by Karim Adeyemi. It all points to an exciting return match in London!

In the meantime, Benfica defeated Club Brugge 0-2 in Belgium, and are already looking towards a quarterfinal.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Barcelona's first title under Xavi

The ex-footballer and Barcelona manager Xavi has taken time to build a competitive side, but being who he is and knowing the club, he has proceeded to build a team that will surely win titles, and today they won their first title in Saudi Arabia: the Spanish Super-Cup. The tournament has become a money-making machine, with the runners-up to the League and Copa del Rey participating in a mini tournament that nevertheless, to the joy of the people putting the money into the tournament, saw Barcelona face the giants of Real Madrid.

Although Real Madrid had some good initial chances, their midfield stars of Modric and Toni Kroos were simply not functioning, while FC Barcelona dominated the match after their initial lead by Gavi.

And it was indeed the 18-year old Gavi who was the star of the match, running around Carvajal in the Real Madrid defense. He made the pass for Lewandowski easily to make it 2-0, while he was also the creator of the third goal by Pedri. Karim Benzema's goal for the Real Madrid in the dying minutes meant nothing as Xavi took his first title, and is also in the lead of the Spanish League.

One of the great things Xavi has done is not only to find the right tactics for difficult matches, but has also empowered young players, not only Gavi, but also Alejandro Balde, who played a great match in defense, alongside the two newcomers Andreas Christensen and Jules Koundé. And finallly, players that were rumoured on their way out, such as Ousmane Dembele and Frankie de Jong, have renewed confidence to show their incredible talent.

Xavi's first title appears not to be the last, and under him Barcelona may be on the way to another glorious era.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Another Manchester derby

Another great match between United and City. City went ahead by Jack Grealish, and one had the feeling that they could hold, but led by a splendid Marcus Rashford Manchester United came back to win 2-1, with Rashford himself scoring the winner. All this despite the fact that the equalizer was controversial: Rashford was in a clear off side position but did not touch the ball as it went to Bruno Fernandes who scored. That said, in my view, Rashford clearly had influence on the play (he followed the ball without touching it), and directly influenced the movement of the defenders.

But this is one of those controversial plays that no VAR or anything can answer, and at the bottom why we love football!

Since Cristiano Ronaldo left, Manchester United have not lost a match, and after a weak start of the season they are now on third place, one point behind Manchester City. The United victory was good for Arsenal, who remain as leaders of the Premier League with five points ahead of Manchester City, and with what will be an exciting clash with Tottenham tomorrow, where a victory would put them further ahead in the league.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Gareth Bale retiring

 These days players often retire late: see Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi or Modric, who all continue at top level. It was perhaps a bit surprising, therefore, to see that Gareth Bale has announced his retirement at the tender age of 33. 

After seeing him at the World Cup with Wales it is perhaps not so surprising: he appeared slow and nto as physically strong as he has been before in his career.

Although he had an amazing career where he won titles with Tottenham and Real Madrid: he won five Champions league titles with Real Madrid, and scored many crucial goals. In terms of Wales he also led them to a semifinal in the Euros, as well as to their first World Cup since 1958.

All this said one had the feeling that such a great player was always as bit in the shadow of other great players in his generation, and that perhaps, just perhaps, he did not have the same drive as his peers despite his enormous talents. Could he have a achieved more? (I personally doubt it, but he was an amazing player).

Bale will be missed by many football fans, and surely he will enjoy his retirement!

Friday, January 06, 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia

Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the best players of his generation, but I think that lately he has made some strange choices that in my view does not make him one of the all time greatest. We all knew he appeared arrogant, but also know that this arrogance-bordering self-confidence remains one of the reasons for his immense footballing qualities. At the same time, his antics in the World Cup when his goal against Uruguay was (correctly) awarded for Bruno Fernandes did not point at a man who may think he is above the team, something that is never good for a group. It was understandable when the manager Fernando Santos took him off for the following match against Switzerland, and his replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored three goals. 

In the end Portugal fell against Morocco, and the entire team, not least Ronaldo, complained about everyone but themselves (this was sadly a common tendency in the world Cup where many teasm still see themselves as the correct World Champions, were it not for referees and other conspiracies). 

So it was not a good World Cup for Ronaldo. 

But it also happened in the midst of a crisis in Manchester United, where he had publicly criticised the club for disloyalty. This is always a strange thing to do, and does not help the team-spirit that is necessary for any club to succeed. So it is also understandable that Manchester United decided to let him go. 

Now, Cristiano Ronaldo is such a fantastic players that I have no doubt that he had many offers. That said, many major clubs must also have had reservations at an ageing superstar that appears to be acting more and more in his own interest. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ronaldo has taken an offer outside Europe, Saudi Arabia´s Al-Nassr, where he is allegedly to receive a salary of around 200 Mio per year… 

In the Saudi league there is not likely to be much attention around the Portuguese as there would have been had he joined for instance the MLS. This is perhaps good for him at a time when his star has fallen a bit. That said, it will be interesting to see how much more football there is in this player that has given us fans so much over the past decade.