Sunday, May 26, 2024

Cruel to the hopeful one

This weekend was full of hope. After watching the FA Cup final I went to the beach. El Tunco is a surf town with not so nice beach, but a good laid-back atmosphere and plenty of drinks, and I was in a good mood as I enjoyed watching people, reading and cold beers. In the evening I watched the final of the Salvadoran Championship, where my adopted Salvadoran side of Alianza destroyed Municipal Limeño 5-0 to take the Salvadoran title.

For me this was buildup for what I really wanted to celebrate: Brøndby taking the Danish League title! 

The Danish league has been awfully close, but with last day, all Brøndby had to do was win at home against AGF, and they would be champions. In the meantime, FC Midtjylland were playing their rivals of Silkeborg (recent winners of the Danish Cup), and had to win, and hope that Brøndby did not win.

I was perhaps too optimistic, but I felt that Brøndby could not lose this at home, with the support of the best fans in Denmark, and having played a great season.

9 AM I sat in a restaurant by the beach, ordered breakfast, and started watching the match live on the "OneFootball" app.

And it all started so well...

Brøndby went ahead 1-0 on a header by the defender Rasmus Lauritsen, and in the meantime Silkeborg went up 0-2 against FC Midtjylland. The title felt so close!

But then things started falling apart.

The same Rasmus Lauritsen missed a clearing and scored an own goal, making it 1-1, which was the score at halftime. "Ok", I thought optimistically, "FC Midtjylland losing, and second half to score a second, things cannot go wrong!".

But they did.

 Within 8 minutes of the second half, FC Midtjylland had scored 3 goals and were ahead 3-2. The title was now with them if Brøndby failed to score! We were all nervous as the unthinkable happened, and Tobias Bech brought AGF ahead 1-2, and suddenly the title was two goals away.

We were all hoping when Sebastian Sebulonsen equalised for Brøndby with 25 minutes left. 3-2 would give Brøndby the title, and we all pushed the team forward. 

But football is like life: cruel to the hopeful one. Instead of 3-2 for Brøndby, AGF scored a third by Patrick Mortensen. At this point I lost hope, but kept watching, and Brøndby received a penny of hope when Silkeborg equalised for 3-3 in Midtjylland. This meant that if Brøndby managed to get 3-3, they would be champions!

I never really believed in it, even though there were some chances. And as the match ended, thousands upon thousands of Brøndby fans all over the world had our hearts broken. 

What do you do when hope is destroyed? When darkness descends over your life, and you feel there is no way forward? 

There is no shame in crying and expressing your disappointment. Just remember to raise your head, be proud of your team, and look forward to the next season where we will again stand together behind the team!

Forza Brøndby!

And to console myself in this deep pain, I will have beer (gravøl), and make a steak on my bbq.



Saturday, May 25, 2024

United Champions

A nice quiet morning in San Salvador was enjoyed with breakfast, coffee and an FA Cup final between the local rivals of Manchester: City and United.

The FA Cup is always a great fight for prestige, and both teams were playing for a bit more; Manchester City to win another "double" after having taken the title, and Manchester United were playing to at least qualify for European football next season after having finished only 8th in the Premier League.

So a lot to play for.

Manchester City had the ball, had the ball, and had the ball. But it was the young Argentine Alejandro Garnacho who scored the first goal for Manchester United after a serious misunderstanding in defense between the goalkeeper Ortega and Josko Gvardiol. Ten minutes later Kobbie Mainoo scored a second for United in what was a splendid attack, and now it looked like a match where Manchester City had to show what they were made of.

Second half Manchester City pushed forward with new changes, including Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku, while Manchester United pulled back with a very solid wall in front of Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana, who also had a great match.

Manchester City's pressure led to a late goal by Jeremy Doku that gave the last minutes of the match some tension, but in the end it appeared that Manchester United had no problem pulling the title home.

This saves the season for United, and is a small disappointment for City.

But otherwise, a nice morning in San Salvador, and now I am going to the beach.

The United Cat

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Atalanta Super Champions

I had expected Bayer Leverkusen to do better. I think everyone had expected Leverkusen, undefeated for 51 matches, to take their first European title, and to continue the crowning of a super season. 

Maybe Xabi Alonso and his team took victory for granted; underestimated the fact that they were up against a Super Atalanta side under Gianpiero Gasperini, who had exactly read how to play the Leverkusen of records.

Because there was only really one team on the pitch. Despite Leverkusen having the ball more, they were unnerved by Atalanta's constant high pressure that forced constant mistakes and lost them the midfield to a splendid midfield where Ederson was just one of the Atalanta players who fought with heart and played a marvelous match.

But the man of the match was undoubtedly the English-Nigerian Ademola Lookman. With three goals he was a constant headache for Leverkusen. In particular his second goal was a splendid strike in between the defenders, and his third a classic and well-executed counter-attack goal (when Leverkusen was feebly trying to go forward). 

Atalanta are fully deserved champions and one must congratulate them for a fantastic match when they seemed to be against the odds.

Bayer Leverkusen can still take a double when the face 1.Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final. But Atalanta has shown that the record-bearing Laverkusen are not unbeatable...

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The day I found my Salvadoran team

 Today I went to watch the classic match in Salvadoran football: Alianza versus FAS in the second leg semifinal of the tournament. The first leg had ended 1-1. 

I had until now not selected a Salvadoran team to support, but today I have chosen Alianza.

I guess it makes sense, they are from San Salvador, a team with history, and a passionate group of fans.

But it was the little things that made me decide to go for Alianza: although they were at home, the place was full of fans from Santa Ana, where FAS is from. A varied bunch, and although a generally quiet and good-natured atmosphere, they were certainly more aggressive and throwing things on the pitch.

A point against FAS.

FAS played a bit better the first half and started going ahead on an outstanding long-shot from Jonathan Nolasco. They created chances, but Alianza had the ball more, and it was an elegant run from their right-winger Anyelo Rodriguez that gave the home side the equalizer as he passed the left-back and centered, forcing the FAS defender Rudy Clavel to score an own goal, and a stadium that exploded.

A point for Alianza.

Alianza came out stronger in the second half, and although FAS fans were noisy and annoying, Alianza fans kept singing and supporting their side. Alianza pressed on while FAS tactics appeared mainly to waste time by acting and committing a lot of small dirty fouls (in my view they should have deserved a red card).

A point against FAS.

As the match appeared to be going into extra time, Leonardo Menjivar made an elegant run and shot from the right side, scoring a great goal and making the stadium explode.

A point for Alianza.

There were nevertheless six added minutes, and FAS started to play football again, and came very close to equalizing, amongst others on an elegant bicycle kick or a great long-shot, despite Alianza's feverish and heroic defending. Alianza's players looked very tired but they fought and held on to the onslaught.

A point for Alianza.

So Alianza is now my favourite Salvadoran team. They are not done nevertheless, as they will have to play the final this Saturday against a side from the Department of La Union, CD Municipal Limeño. They are from a small town, Santa Rosa de Lima, who have never won the championship before, so they will be up against the giant from Alianza, who is looking to win its 18th title.

And I will support Alianza.

Alianza vs. FAS

Monday, May 13, 2024

Mbappe's last days

When Messi left PSG to go to Inter Miami it did not happen with much love between the club and the player. Now Kylian Mbappe has announced that he is leaving (it has not been confirmed, but all rumours appear to be that he will join a Real Madrid side that again is betting on a Galacticos Part II), it is also without much fanfare. 

In his last home match for PSG only the ultras made a homage to the player that has spent seven seasons in Paris, while many other fans did not show any respect, instead whistling at him, even when he scored a goal (which he dedicated to Keylor Navas) in a match PSG lost 1-3 to Toulouse. 

He is the most scoring player in PSG’s history. 

It appear that Mbappe will end with yet another French title, but there is no doubt that he wants to win a Champions League title, and that the latest loss may only have confirmed that he needs to go to a new club with more history and winning mentality, things that appear to be missing amid PSG’s millions of dollars. 

Mbappe is only 25, already has a World Cup title and is one of the world’s best players. No matter where he ends up, he still has many years and many titles ahead of him.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Real Madrid (likely) champions

We have the two finalists of this year's Champions League: Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. 

Borussia Dortmund defeated a shallow Paris St. Germain who everyone expected to be better at home in Paris after the narrow loss in Germany. One has to wonder whether they underestimated Dormund as Luis Enrique's tactics appeared unprepared for a side that was well-organised in defense and threatening on counterattacks. Even when Dortmund went ahead by the veteran Mats Hummels after a corner kick, the Parisians appeared unable to open Dortmund, who are deservedly in their third Champions League final. 

It does appear unlikely however, that Borussia Dortmund can win their second title as they will be facing the defending champions of Real Madrid, as well as a likely referee... 

Over the two matches against Bayern Munich, Real Madrid were good: they tied 2-2 in Munich, an excellent result before going back to Madrid. And indeed they pressured well in a first half that nevertheless ended 0-0, in part thanks to Manuel Neuer who looked like in his younger days. In the second half Bayern made some good changes, most of all Alphonse Davies, who came in with speed and technique, scoring a fantastic goal to bring the Germans ahead, and it looked like a German victory until the 88th minute when Joselu was on the spot when none other than the great Manuel Neuer could not hold the ball, and dropped it at Joselu's feet. 

1-1 still looked like extra time when Joselu scored for 2-1 in a situation that almost looked like off-side, but wasn’t. It was then that the referees took over to ensure Madrid's victory: Matthijs de Ligt scored for Bayern Munich, but was called off-side in a situation where the referee should never have whistled (let the play continue, as is the general rule), and Rudiger's arm appeared to cancel the offside. These things happen, yes, but in the world of VAR they shouldn't, and less should they happen when in such an important match. 

Congratulations to Real Madrid for the Champions League title!

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

RIP Cesar Menotti

A legend of Argentine football, Cesar Luis Menotti has joined the string of greats who have passed away in 2024. At his passing, the chain-smoking Argentine, known as "El Flaco", was director for all Argentine National teams, continuing to exercise big influence on the country that he led to its first World Cup victory in 1978.

Menotti was known for favouring beautiful football, a style of possession, while his later counterpart Carlos Bilardo, favoured a more defensive and result-oriented style. This different view of what football was about led to the competition in Argentine football between menotismo and bilardismo, with both styles having given Argentina a World Cup title.

RIP Menotti.