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