Sunday, June 30, 2024

Danish exit and VAR

First of all we have to admit that this was not the same great Danish team that we saw in 2021. Seen over the four matches they played good possession occasionally, but lacked change of pace to counterattack as well as playing too defensively against sides which they were dominating (Slovenia and Serbia). And worst of all, they appeared to lack the fighting spirit that had been so great in 2021.

Therefore, it was no surprise that Denmark lost 2-0 to the German hosts in the last-16; seen over the entire match Germany were probably better, missing many chances against a great Kasper Schmeichel, but at the same time Denmark played a good match where they, with a bit of luck, could have hurt they Germans.

But the match was ruined by bad refereeing underpinned by VAR.

I am not against VAR; I am against bad refereeing. And VAR is just becoming an excuse for bad refereeing. VAR is being used completely wrong, and this is not the first match it has happened. Denmark had a goal cancelled due to off-side. It was one centimeter, barely visible, unless you analyse it in depth. But off-side it was; the problem is when so much time is used to find something that was not immediately obvious.

Then we have the penalty, and here for me the problem is not VAR, but that VAR becomes the excuse for cowardly refereeing. The handball had no influence on the situation and there was no intention from the player. Romelu Lukaku had a goal cancelled for a similar situation in Belgium's match against Slovakia, and both of these situations are complete overinterpretations of what a handball actually is in football.

So it is a pity that the match was ruined by bad refereeing. After Kai Havertz scored on the penalty kick the Danes had to push forward which left space in the back; Jamal Musiala and his speed took advantage of the space to make it 2-0 and effectively close the match as the Danes never appeared to really be able to threaten the Germans after the penalty. 

The match had nevertheless been exciting until the bad referee decision. 

Denmark out, they deserved it, but it is a pity it happened the way it happened.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Arepa versus Taco

 I have a special relationship to both Venezuela and Mexico. Venezuela because I lived there and love the country very much, and Mexico because I am so fortunate that I will soon move to the beautiful country. While I did not watch the match, I heard that Venezuela had defeated Mexico 1-0 in Copa America on a goal by good ole' Solomon Rondon (who is actually now playing in Mexico, Pachuca). Great for Venezuela, who after defeating the favourites of Ecuador have maximum points in their group, and may do as well as they did in 2011 (when I happened to live there).

Mexico in the meantime continues in crisis. They won their first match, but will now have to face Ecuador in a very difficult match that could see them through or bust.

In the meantime, I am happy that the Arepa beat the Taco!


Misery and Joy

In group E everyone could go through as we entered the last round, and expectations were yet again that Belgium, ranked one of the best teams in the world, would defeat Ukraine and win the group. The match ended 0-0 and Belgium went through on second spot anyway as Slovakia and Romania tied 1-1, putting the Romanians as surprising winners of Group E, and Ukraine as the unlucky last despite getting 4 points. Belgium was awful though; the pampered millionaire superstars appeared offended that Ukraine played better and ended the match defending and going for 0-0 against a side that they should defeat. And they appeared more offended when their own fans howled and whistled at them because of a performance that was frankly disrespectful to everyone.

You are millionaire entertainers. When you do not entertain, admit it.

Contrast the Belgian misery to Georgia, who went through in group F as best third placed team with 4 points after defeating the Portuguese superstars 2-0. The Georgian star Kvisha Kvaratskhelia scored a splendid first goal, while Georges Mikautadze made it 2-0 on a penalty (it was indeed penalty, but my concern is about the fact that it took VAR very long to call it). Portugal are nevertheless through on first spot in the group, but may not be as big favourites as they have been considered.

Georgia pulled the surprise and have progressed for the first time ever in a major tournament, The Georgians celebrated as if they had won the tournament, understandably, and it is clear that they play with the heart and commitment that the Belgians completely lack.

Both Belgium and Georgia are facing difficult matches: Georgia will face the undefeated Spanish side, while Belgium will face the mighty French side, and will have to show their fans that there is still something worth to cheer in Belgium.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


Denmark made it through on second place after England. It was not elegant and awfully lucky for a side that seems afraid to attack (Denmark used to be so good at counter-attacking!!!! What happened!!!???) and starts to defend against teams that are frankly not very good. Because all due respect to Serbia, but when you have to win a match and you play like that, you do not deserve to go through.

So I do not understand why the Danes did not go after the victory, but defended a 0-0 that got them through on second spot, ahead of Slovenia (who are also through after 0-0 with England), because they are a higher ranked team.

Now Denmark will face the German hosts. Switzerland, a far better team than Denmark, showed that the Germans are not invincible, but at the same time that you have to play your best. Denmark will this have to play their best, but most of all, and this is what worries me, they have to believe that they can win instead of defending the entire match.

Of course, it is arrogant Germany, nobody the Danes would rather defeat, but we have to face that it will be nearly a miracle if they do.

New Spain and Old Italy

Before the tournament Spain did not look like the big favourites, but they certainly do now. Under the leadership of the hapless Luis Enrique Spain had not impressed, but the former youth manager, Luis de La Fuente, has forged a splendid side based on the immense talent base in Spain. Lamine Yamal, only 16 years old, is only one example, but other players that have come forward include Nico Williams, Pedri, Fermin Lopez, as well as players whose talent was wasted during Luis Enrique, such as Dani Olmo and Marc Cucurella. And frankly, older experienced players are there too.

Spain last night defeated Albania 0-1 with ten substitutions. They have won the group with maximum points and a score of 5-0, and are looking like the team to beat in the tournament.

It seems we have a new super Spain in the making, more direct that the old Tiki-Taka side.

Croatia and Spain were playing their everything to follow Spain through. Croatia had to win, while a tie would be sufficient for Italy to defend the title they won in 2021. As would be expected it was a match full of drama. In the second half the veteran superstar Luka Modric brought Croatia ahead after having missed a penalty, and a lot of relief to a Croatia side that nevertheless drew back to defend. Italy understandably pushed forward, but we had to move to the 97th minute, the last kick of the match, before the Lazio winger Mattia Zaccagni brought relief to Italy and deep heartbreak to Croatia. 

1-1 and Italy are through to continue defending their title, like in the old days, while Croatia are out, and are probably looking at a farewell to the veterans that have done so much for Croatia over the years, most notably the Great Luka Modric.

Thank you.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

The fucking world we live in

Every tournament it gets worse, and it just saddens me. The racism, xenophobia, hate... It is not the fault of football, but with football it just becomes almost legal to express extreme viewpoints; to say what you think, but apparently it is not legal to actually think.

Serbia is angry that Croatian and Albanian fans shouted "kill Serbs" during their match. Truly despicable, and cannot understand why a match like that is not suspended. At the same time you see images of these Serbs shouting racist slogans and not letting a black man on a train, and one feels that they are as despicable as the Albanians or Croatians.

Sad truth is that everyone all over the world is the same....

Then we hear Germans (Germans!!!) complain about the colour of their players, something we have seen in England, France as well. I am happy that at least Julian Nagelsmann strongly criticised it, but I am afraid he is another lone voice fighting the tide of hate that envelops all our societies.

As I said, it is not football's fault. It is our societies; full of ignorance and idiotic tribalism (both ignorance and tribalism are sadly concepts worn with pride by most people everywhere in the world).

Although it is not football's fault, it becomes difficult to get excited about the game when all you see is that; when friendly taunting and mutual respect, a place to meet other cultures and nationalities in a friendly sport, becomes just what is the most characteristic trait of the human race since times immemorial: pure and evil hate

The fucking world we live in.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Copa America 2024

More great football as the European championship continues underway, as Copa America started last night with the World Champions of Argentina defeating Canada 2-0 in the opening match. Argentina are also defending Copa America Champions, and are eager to retake the title. The sixteen participating teams (ten from CONMEBOL and six from CONCACAF) are distributed as follows:

Group A:

  • Argentina
  • Canada
  • Peru
  • Chile
Group B:
  • Mexico
  • Ecuador
  • Venezuela
  • Jamaica
Group C:
  • USA
  • Uruguay
  • Panama
  • Bolivia
Group D:
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Panama
  • Costa Rica

It paints to be an exciting tournament running in parallel with the Euros.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Scottish return

Scotland played a dreadful opening match against Germany losing 1-5. In the meantime Switzerland had played a great match defeating Hungary 3-1, so everything appeared to be set for Switzerland and a second victory.

But this time Scotland rose to the occassion with a great atmosphere by both team's fans.

It was a not a well-played match, and Swizterland made numerous errors, while many of Scotland's players simply lacked the technique to do what should be done. But both teams, specially the Scots, played with spirit and commitment. In a quick counterattack they were a bit lucky when Fabian Shar pushed Scott McTominay's shot across the goalline, but the lead was deserved. At the same time Anthony Ralston gave away a pass to Xerdan Shaquiri who scored (another) spectacular goal to make it 1-1.

Scotland went for the victory in the second half even though Switzerland had a goal ruled a tight off-side. The Swiss appeared more satisfied with the tie, as it almost secures them advancement to the nexto round, while Scotland will have to go for the victory against Hungary.

Hungary are a good side, but no matter what happens, the Scots have shown that they are still a competitive side that has spirit and energy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The darlings

After the first round of Euro 2024 (although there are still today's matches to go), there are two teams that have come forward as the "darlings"; that is, underrated teams that may cotninue to charm us with their fight, commitment, and great fans.

The first candidate is Romania. They had last participated in 2016, and the last time they won a match at the Euros was in 2000. Yesterday they were not favourites against Ukraine, but with massive support from their fans (and we do not count their horrible black-clad Ultras whom we could live without) they took apart the poor Ukranians with 3-0. Notably Nicolae Stanciu's first goal may be the best goal of the tournament so far.

The other sides in the group are Belgium and Slovakia, and by many Belgium has been considered huge favourite to win the group. But not withstanding that they are yet to face a splendid Romania, the Belgians disappointed in their opening match by losing to a hard-fighting and well-organised Slovakia, who were an example of how a small teams can defeat a favourite with tenacity and organization. After seven minutes Ivan Schranz bought the Slovakians ahead and they held on to the score until the end despite heavy pressure from the Belgians (and two VAR goals by Lukaku annulled, with specially the second goal is an example of how VAR should NOT be used). 

In the end it may be Slovakia and Romania that will surprise and become the fan favourites of the tournament.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Playing with the speed of old turtles

After a great Euro 2021, Denmark disappointed enormously in the 2022 World Cup. Back then there were several excuses from the political pressure to the weather. Even though they struggled to qualify for the 2024 Euros, there have nevertheless been expectations building in Denmark that the team managed by Kasper Hjulmand would get a good start at the Euro and surprise again with a combination of experienced players and some youthful talents.

Today we saw that Denmark is mostly talk and that Hjulmand has no capacity to motivate his team when things get difficult.

Denmark started well. Christian Eriksen brought them ahead 1-0 on a splendid strike and Denmark had possession and pressure. But they played so slow!!!! The pace was of a turtle, and they lacked imagination to get through a Slovene side that had nothing to offer.

Second half the Slovenians moved forward, as would be expected, and they Danes fell apart in nerves over the pressure of a side that they should be superior too. This is when a manager needs to motivate and push his team forward, but Hjulmand just sat on his bench looking like a surprised schoolteacher. Denmark got more and more nervous, lost possession, made mistakes, and the defense of three otherwise experienced players were giving chances to Slovenia that Andraz Sporar missed and missed to Denmark's luck.

But you cannot rely on luck. You need energy, and Denmark lacked it. After a splendid strike from Benjamin Sesko hit the post, the Slovenes were lucky when a shot by Erik Lanza changed direction and meant an equalizer for the Slovenes. 

The Danes remained surprised, nervous and disappointed the rest of the match. 1-1 was a bad result for both sides, but Slovenia must be happier as expectations were not that big.

In the meantime, Denmark had big expectations, and it now seems unlikely that they can get anything from playing England and Serbia in the next two matches. 

20 Years of blogging!

Time flies. 

Twenty years ago, on June 16th 2004, Facebook had just been founded but not become a global phenomenon. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or WhatsApp did not exist yet. Lionel Messi had not played his first match for FC Barcelona, while a young Cristiano Ronaldo was starting his career in Manchester United. Spain had never won a World Cup, Manchester City did not belong to the Abu Dhabi Group, and FC Porto had just won the Champions League.

I was also a nerd (as I still am), finishing my Masters degree in Denmark, and wondering what the future would bring...

I had a World Cup football website since 1998, but blogging was a new thing, where people could write articles about whatever they wanted. So I started blogging, inspired by my friend Stig, who blogged about cool stuff, but I decided to be a nerd and blog about football, just as the 2004 European Championship had started, and Denmark had tied Italy.

How much has happened since then! I don't know what I would have thought if someone had said to me that 20 years later I would still be blogging ("get a life"!?).

As these twenty years feel to have flown by, I have gone from a young sexy student to a middle aged bald and chubby professional; I have gone through ups and downs in life as well as in football, something that I have expressed in this blog (and sometimes not), but in the end, this blog, with more than 1500 posts, has been here following me as I have seen and experienced many changes in my life, the world in general, and the footballing world in particular!

Sometimes I blog, sometimes I don't. Whenever I feel like it. Blogging is no longer cool; it is like writing with an ink-feather after the invention of the printing-press. But here I am, an old ugly fart, writing about a thing that is special to me, football. 

Football, no matter where I have been, at what time, across cultures and generations, it is a common reference point anywhere in the world. That makes it even more special, and I will try to keep blogging about it, amid my ups and downs...

Thanks if you take the time to read this.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Seen from Glasgow

 Yesterday I happened to be in Glasgow, Scotland, as the charming Scots and their Tartan army faced Germany at the opening match of the Euros in Munich. There was a good expecting atmosphere and pubs were full even though there were apparently 200000 Scots in Munich.

Germany has not been strong in the last tournaments and a hope for Scotland could be that Germany would succumb to pressure.

But no such luck for the hapless Scots.

Germany were far superior from the first minute of the match. Relentless pressure, quick passes and a splendid Toni Kroos in midfield, and the Scots had absolutely nothing to offer. Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz ran around the Scots, and by halftime each had scored splendid goals alongside Kai Havertz’ penalty goal that also cost Ryan Porters a red card.

Second half Germany went down a gear but were still far superior. Substitutes Niclas Fullkrug and Emerson Can scored, while Scotland’s undeserved goal was also scored by a German, Antonio Rudiger own goal.

There was still a good atmosphere in Glasgow as the match ended, but probably not as in Germany, who look to be going for the title.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Greatest Euro Matches: England-Italy (2021)

Euro 2020 did not take place in 2020: Due to the global Covid pandemic of 2020 the tournament had to be postponed to 2021. Additionally, led by the later-disgraced UEFA president Michel Platini, UEFA had decided that not one nation would host the tournament, but instead the tournament was to be hosted by 11 cities in 11 different countries to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament. Even though the pandemic was in its wane, this caused enormous logistical problems as many countries still had restrictions about travel and assembly. 

The city chosen to host the final was London, and at the time of the final there were still many travel restrictions, another advantage for England who throughout the tournament that football would “be coming home”. 

England had reason to be optimistic, if not arrogant. Managed by former England player Gareth Southgate, he had taken England to the 2018 semifinals. The team surely counted with an extremely strong combination of experience and talent from the Premier League, perhaps the strongest league in the world. Jordan Pickford from Everton was in goal, behind Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, John Stones, Manchester United’s Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, as well as Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Tripper. Midfield included Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, but also some very talented youths such as West Ham’s Declan Rice, Manchester City’s Phil Foden, Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka and Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho. Finally attack included the team’s captain and topscorer, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling. 

England walked through qualification, scoring an impressive 37 goals in 8 matches, and only losing one match to the Czech Republic, but winning their group. Therefore expectations were high when they got into a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. Despite winning the group the side did not look impressive though: they defeated Croatia and Czechia, 1-0 in both case, and tied Scotland 0-0. Not many goals, but a strong defense. 

The first real test came in the last-16 when they faced their arch-rivals of Germany, defeating them 2-0 and really creating expectations about the title. In the quarterfinals England trashed Ukraine 4-0, and faced Denmark in the semifinals in a match that had to go into extra time and was only won after a controversial penalty that Harry Kane scored on the rebound

As they were to face Italy at home, England’s fans were almost prematurely celebrating as they were to face Italy at their legendary Wembley Stadium. 

Since winning the 2006 World Cup Italy had not impressed at World Cups. They had been eliminated at the group stages in 2010 and 2014 and had even failed to qualify to Russia 2018. Things had been a bit better in the European Championships as they had made the 2012 final, but were trashed by Spain. After the debacle in the 2018 qualification the former player Roberto Mancini, with ample experience in clubs such as Inter Milan and Manchester City, became manager. The goal was to qualify for the European championship, something he managed in style by winning ten out of ten matches, although the group had not looked too strong with runners-up Finland and Greece.

The squad was strong though and counted a talented young goalkeeper from AC Milan in Gianluigi Donnarumma. In defense the veteran captain from Juventus, Giorgio Chiellini, continued to play at an incredibly high level and complemented by strong players such as Alessandro Florenzi from Paris St. Germain, Lazio’s Francesco Acerbi, Napoli’s Giovanni di Lorenzo and Chelsea’s Emerson Palmieri. In midfield was the workhorse from Paris St. Germain, Marco Verrati, alongside Chelsea’s strong defensive midfielder Jorginho, including Inter’s Nicolo Barella, Juventus Federico Bernardeschi or Juventus Federico Chiesa. Strikers included Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne and Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi. 

Italy looked strong from the start of the tournament: They won all their three matches, 3-0 over Turkey, 3-0 over Switzerland and 1-0 over Wales. They struggled to defeat a hard fighting Austrian side 2-1 after extra time in the last-16, but then played a great match to defeat the strong Belgians 2-1 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals they faced one of their archrivals, Spain, and won after penalty kicks to make it to the final against England. 

As it had been in the semifinals against Denmark they away fans were limited to Italians living in London, who faced a hostile English crowd who booed the Italian anthem and were insisting that “Football is coming home”. We were reminded of the worst of English fans; there were big fan troubles and English racism against their own players after the match had been lost. 

That said, it was the start of dreams for England: after two minutes Kieran Trippier passed the ball towards the far post where an unmarked Luke Shaw brought England ahead 1-0 on a half-volley. 

The fastest goal in a European Championship final. 

England were in ecstasy, but also appeared overly careful after the goal, and slowly Italy started to take over possession and get chances, but were kept away from big chances from Pickford and the defense. While England was leading at half-time it did not feel that the match was over, but that Italy would be hard to defeat. With two changes 10 minutes into the second half Italy continued to dominate possession, and one felt that Southgate, leading 1-0, was pulling back too much. After Italy steadily getting closer Italy finally scored. Following a corner kick Verrati hit the post, and Juventus’ Leonardo Bonucci was there to pick-up the riposte. 

At 34 years of age, Bonucci remains the oldest player to have scored in a European Championship final. 

Italy continued dominating against an England side that looked almost afraid in how careful they were playing in front of their home crowd, and the match ended 1-1 after extra time as well. 

Gareth Southgate made changes in extra time that seemed to prepare for penalty kicks as he brought on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in the 120th minute. At the score 1-1 on penalty kicks Andrea Belloti missed for England, and when Harry Maguire brought England ahead 2-1 it seemed that things were going England’s way. But following Bonucci’s goal, Marcus Rashford missed the goal entirely and score was 2-2. Following Bernardeschi bringing Italy ahead it was Jadon Sancho’s turn to miss when Donnarumma saved his shot, and suddenly the great Jorginho could make Italy champions, but a great Pickford saved. The last one to shoot for England was the young Bukayo Saka. He had to score, but his short was saved by Donnarumma, and Italy were champions of Europe for the second time since 1968

It was a big disappointment for England, but at least Football stayed home with Italy.  

London, 11th July 2021 Wembley Stadium 
Attendance: 67,173 
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers, Netherlands 

England-Italy 1-1 (AET) 
Penalty kicks: England-Italy 3-2 

England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, (Jadon Sancho, 120), John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier (Bukayo Saka, 71), Luke Shaw, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice (Jordan Henderson, 74 (Marcus Rashford, 120)), Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount (Jack Grealish, 99); Harry Kane (c). Manager: Gareth Southgate 
Italy: Gianluigi Donnaruma; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini (c), Emerson Palmieri (Alessandro Florenzi, 118); Jorghinho, Nicolo Barella (Bryan Cristante, 54), Marco Verrati (Manuel Locatelli, 96); Federico Chiesa (Federico Bernardeschi, 86), Lorenzo Insigne (Andrea Belotti, 91), Ciro Immobile (Deomenico Berardi, 54). Manager: Roberto Mancini 

1-0 Kyle Walker (2) 
1-1 Leonardo Bonucci (67) 

Penalty kicks:
1-1 Domenico Berardi 
1-1 Harry Kane 
Andrea Belloti missed for the Italy 
1-2 Harry Maguire 
2-2 Leonardo Bonucci 
Marcus Rashford missed for England 
2-3 Federico Bernardeshci 
Jadon Sancho missed for England 
Jorginho missed for Italy 
Bukayo Saka missed for England

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Greatest Euro Matches: France-Switzerland (2021)

France won the World Championship of 2018 in Russia, and were surely considered one of the favourites to take the European title in 2020. That said, due to the COVID pandemic the tournament 2020 could not be the year that they would be able to take the title, as the entire tournament was postponed to 2021. Gthis nevertheless appeared to mean nothing with a team captained by the experienced Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and with strong defenders such as Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and FC Barcelona’s Clement Leglet. The wingbacks were the Bayern Munich players Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. In the meantime Manager Didier Deschamps had too many brilliant midfielders to choose from: Paul Pogba from Manchester United, Ngolo Kante from Chelsea, Moussa Sissoko from Tottenham, Andrien Rabiot from Juventus or Kingsley Coman from Bayern Munich. And it attack, complementing one of the world’s best players, Kylian Mbappe from Paris St. Germain, were such stars as FC Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, Chelsea’s Oliver Giroud and Real Madrid’s superstar Karim Benzema. 

In every way France looked awesome, but had not been perfect in qualification, losing one match to Turkey, but still winning their group. 

In the group stages France ended in the so-called “Group of Death” alongside Germany, Portugal and Hungary. Although playing in Munich France defeated Germany 0-1 in their opening match and 1-1 and 2-2 with Hungary and Portugal respectively was enough to win the group and make it to the last-16 where they were to play the unfancied Swiss. 

Despite being unfancied Switzerland was a solid and organised side of experienced players who played in good clubs, mainly in Germany. Borussia Monchengladbach’s Yann Sommer was the goalkeeper in front of strong defenders such as Borussia Dortmund’s Manuel Akanji, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Nico Elvedi,Torino’s Ricardo Rodriguez and Newcastle’s Fabian Schar. Midfield counted the strong Arsenal player Granit Xhaka and Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaquiri. And as strikers Switzerland counted with Mario Gavranovic from Dynamo Zagreb, Benfica’s Hafis Seferovic or Borussia Monchengladbach’s Breel Embolo. 

Switzerland had won their qualification group ahead of Denmark, Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar. In the first round of the tournament they were in a difficult group with Italy, Wales and Turkey. They tied Wales 1-1 in their opening match, but were destroyed 0-3 by Italy in their second match. Defeating Turkey 3-1 in their last match was enough to take them through on third spot, and to face the French World Champions in a match in which they were certainly the underdogs. 

Perhaps it was the typical French arrogance, but they started the match doing nothing. Instead, it was a determined Swiss midfielder from Frankfurt, Steven Zuber who made a perfect pass from the left, and Hafic Sevfrovic perfectly headed the ball into a Swiss lead. The French defense had looked like they were sleeping, and now France had to prove themselves as Switzerland defended deep with a strong Yann Sommer in goal. That said, besides some shots from outside the area France looked wobbly and were losing, deservedly, 1-0 at halftime. 

Deschamps put on the young Bayern Munich player Kingsley Coman on for defender Leglet in the second half to put more pressure, but it was the Swiss who had the chance to make it 2-0 when a well-playing Steven Zuber rushed down the left side and was taken down inside the area. The subsequent penalty by Ricardo Rodriguez was nevertheless saved by Hugo Lloris. 

Instead of 2-0 the penalty appeared to give the French renewed energy and their combinations started working when Real Madrid’s great Karim Benzema made a brilliant first touch on a pass from Mbappe and made it 1-1. Two minutes later Antoine Griezmann went into the area and his shot was half saved by Sommer, but the ball ended with Benzema who headed it in for 1-2 for France. 

The match had completely turned around within five minutes, and now France were playing like the World Champions that they were, although their defense continued to look shaken during the few Swiss attacks. 

Fifteen minutes before time Paul Pogba scored one of the best goals of the tournament on a spectacular long shot that ended in the corner of the goal. Fantastic goal, and with 3-1 it seemed that France were dancing their way to the quarterfinals. 

But Swiss tenacity and a poor French defending are a dangerous combination. 

Wolfburg's Kevin Mbabu, who had come in a few minutes earlier, was given all the time in the world to lay a perfect pass into the French area where Seferovic again rose above a sleepy Raphael Varane and made it 2-3 on another header, and the French World Champions looked incredibly shaken. 

Arrogance can quickly become frustration, and the Swiss put pressure. Gavranovic, who had come in for Shaquiri, had a goal cancelled because of a tight off-side. But not giving up, Gavranovic rounded Kimpembe in the 90th minute and with a flat shot towards the far corner he made it 3-3. Again the French defense did not look like World Champions but more like Sunday school boys. 

Everyone thought 3-3, but Kinglsey Coman almost gave the French the victory hitting the crossbar in the last second of the match, which thus had to go into extra time. 

 Both teams were visibly tired in extra time. Switzerland defended heroically as the French pushed forward. Yann Sommer made good saves from Benjamin Pavard and Olivier Giroud, and Mbappe missed a big opportunity to make it 4-3, but in the end it was all in vain as it ended 3-3 and the match went into penalty kicks. 

 It was 100% accuracy from both sides before the last kick by none other than Kylian Mbappe. His shot was saved by Yann Sommer, who could immediately celebrate the sensational victory of Switzerland against the World Champions. 

 Switzerland faced Spain in the quarterfinals, whom they also gave a close match, only to lose in penalties. But their elimination of France in this extraordinary match will always be remembered. 

Bucharest, 28th June 2021 Arena Nationala 
Attendance: 22,642 
Referee: Fernando Rapallini, Argentina 

France-Switzerland 3-3 (AET) 
Penalty kicks: France-Switzerland 4-5 

France: Hugo Lloris (c); Raphael Varane, Clement Lenglet (Kinglsey Coman, 46 (Marcus Thuram, 111)), Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Pavard, Adrien Rabiot; Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, Antoine Griezmann (Moussa Sissoko, 88); Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema (Olivier Giroud, 94). Manager: Didier Deschamps 
Switzerland: Yann Sommer; Ricardo Rodriguez (Admir Mehmedi, 87), Manuel Akanji, Nico Elvedi; Silvan Widmer (Kevin Mbabu, 73), Remo Freuler, Granit Xhaka, Steven Zuber (Christian Fassnacht, 79); Xerdan Shaquiri (Mario Gavranovic, 73), Haris Seferovic (Fabia Schar, 97), Breel Embolo (Ruben Vargas, 79). Manager: Vladimir Petkovic 

0-1 Seferovic (15) 
1-1 Benzema (57) 
2-1 Benzema (59) 
3-1 Pogba (75) 
3-2 Seferovic (81) 
2-2 Gavranovic (90) 

Penalty kicks:
0-1 Gavranovic 
1-1 Pogba 
1-2 Schar 
2-2 Giroud 
2-3 Akanji 
3-3 Thuram 
3-4 Vargas 
4-4 Kimpembe 
4-5 Mehmedi 
Mbappe missed for France

Friday, June 07, 2024

The Greatest Euro Matches: Spain-Croatia (2021)

Many things were special about the Euro 2020: first of all, it did not take place in 2020. Due to the global Covid pandemic of 2020 the tournament had to be postponed to 2021. Secondly, UEFA had decided that not one nation would host the tournament, but instead the tournament was to be hosted by 11 cities in 11 different countries. Even though the pandemic was in its wane, this caused enormous logistical problems as many countries still had restrictions about travel and assembly. It was a mess, but a mess with a lot of memorable football. 

24 countries participated, and two of the greatest, Spain and Croatia, gave us a memorable match in Copenhagen. 

Spain entered the country as favourites as always. Most of the players from their legendary 2008, 2010 and 2012 side were out, but one remained namely the captain from Barcelona, Sergio Busquets, who had played in 2010 and 2012. That said, the team counted a long list of experienced veterans and highly talented youngsters: Manchester United’s David de Gea guarded the goal with Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta providing defensive coverage alongside Barcelona’s veteran Jordi Alba, and Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia, both from Manchester City. In midfield alongside Busquets was the veteran Koke from Atletico Madrid, Thiago from Liverpool, and some hugely talented youngsters in Rodri and Ferran Torres from Manchester City and Dani Olmo from RB Leipzig. Attacking power appeared not to be as awesome but they had the young Pedri from FC Barcelona, alongside more experienced Alvaro Morata from Juventus and Gerard Moreno from Villarreal. In a side with so much talent from some of Europe’s best clubs, it was notable that there was not a signle player from Real Madrid for thge first time ever, something that the Manager, and ex-Barcelona player and manager Luis Enrique, was highly criticised for. 

Spain had appeared strong in qualification, winning their relatively easy group ahead of Sweden, Norway, Romania, Faroe Islands and Malta. Despite all the criticism they were a team to count on, and most people expected them to win their first round group to be played against Sweden, Poland and Slovakia. 

But Spain did not look good at home in Seville and it appeared that Luis Enrique struggled with setting a team in the first two matches when they tied Sweden and Poland 0-0 and 1-1 respectively. Only in the last match did they oipen the floodgates when winning 5-0 against Slovakia, but this only put them in second spot behind Sweden, meaning that they would be going to Copenhagen to face Croatia. 

The Croatian side that had come second in the 2018 World Cup  was still a powerful but ageing side. The captain was the great Luca Modric from Real Madrid, who nevertheless was not always up for a full match. And although the great Ivan Rakitic was no longer part of the squad, the midfield was still awesome with players like Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic from Inter, Mateo Kovacic from Chelsea, and Mario Pasalic from Atalanta. Defense was also solid with Dejan Lovren from Zenit St. Petersburg, Sime Vrsaljko from Atletico Madrid, Duje Caleta-Car from Marseille, Domagoj Vida from Besiktas and a young Josko Gvuardiol from Dinamo Zagreb. In attack the side counted players like Ante Rebic from AC Milan and Andrej Kramaric from Hoffenheim. 

Croatia had qualified first in their group ahead of Wales, Slovakia, Hungary and Azerbaijan, and had landed in a group with England, Czechia and Scotland, where they had not impressed: after losing 0-1 to England they had gone on to tie Czechia 1-1 and then a 3-1 victory over Scotland was good enough to make them runners-up behind the English, which put them face to face with Spain in Copenhagen. 

Neither side had impressed in the first round, going through only on their last match, so both managers started with similar lineups as in their last group matches. 

It was splendid match between two different, but equally splendid, sides. 

The first 19 minutes were all Spain with Croatia struggling to keep the Spaniards away, and Koke should likely have brought the Spaniards ahead. Instead, in the 19th minute, one of the weirdest drops in Euroean championship history happened. Croatia had hardly had a shot on goal, but Pedri made a pass back to goalkeeper Unai Simon, who totally missed an easy ball, which passed him and went into goal... 

 0-1 for Croatia, and the Spaniards were shaken as a confident Croatian side pushed forward and Vlasic and Kovasic had good chances for a second. That said, Spain slowly worked themselves back into the match and managed to again pressure the Croatians. In the 37th minute a string of shots and saves by goalkeeper Livakovic ended with PSGs Pablo Sarabia who equalised for Spain. 

Second half started with a new round of Spanish pressure, although a bit more careful. That said, it resulted in 2-1 when Cesar Azpilicueta scored his first goal for Spain on a header after a good center pass from Ferran Torres. The match flowed a bit more, and Croatia also had some chances, specially one where Unai Simon made a spectacular save, forgiving his mistake at the first half. But it was Spain that would not forgive: a long pass towards Ferran Torres, who rounded a young Gvuardiol and placed the ball perfectly behind Livakovic. 

3-1 Spain. 15 minutes to go. Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic put Ante Budimir on for Kovacic, and Matio Pasalic on for Vlasic. And then we all know that Croatia is never beaten! 

Croatians not only fight to the end, but they are also gifted footballers. They managed to put pressure on a Spain side that never really looked too strong in defense, and in the 85th minute it was the Dynamo Zagreb striker Mislav Orsic, who had come on for Rebic, who brought the score to 2-3 in a messy situation in the penalty box. 

Spain then got nervous while a hard-fighting Croatia got confident. Two minutes into added time Atalanta’s Pasalic made a perfect header from a perfect pass to make it 3-3, and extra time of an epic match. 

Croatia had a couple of good chances early in extra time, but while both sides were clearly tired after a fantastic fight, it seemed that the Spaniard’s technique might be their advantage. And so it was when Alvaro Morata scored a great goal for Spain: he perfectly controlled a difficult ball in the area and shot the ball into the near top corner of goal from a tight angle. It was a relief for the Spaniards as Morata had been highly criticised during the tournament, but this goal showed his quality. 

Three minutes later the Real Sociedad striker Mikel Oyarzabal, who had come on for Ferran Torres, made it 5-3. 

It was in reality the end, although the heroic Croatians pushed forward as much as they could, and the Spaniards defended with the last of their strength. All in all, it was one of these splendid matches that have a bit of everything: mistakes, fantastic technique, heroic fights and a fair result. 

Croatia left the tournament with their heads held high (but surely knowing them, they were disappointed), while Spain went to the quarterfinals. They were to be considered one of the favourites, but after defeating Switzerland on penalty kicks, they went on to lose on penalty kicks as well to the later champions of Italy in the semifinals  

Copenhagen, June 28th, 2021, Parken 
Attendance: 22,771 
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir, Turkey 

Spain-Croatia 5-3 

Spain: Unai Simon; Eric Garcia (Pau Torres, 71), Aymeric Laporte, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jose Gaya (Jordi Alba, 77); Sergio Busquets (c) (Rodri, 101), Koke (Fabian Ruiz, 77), Pedri; Alvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia (Dani Olmo, 71), Ferran Torres (Mikel Oyarzabal, 88). Manager: Luis Enrique
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic; Domagoj Vida, Duje Caleta-Car, Josko Gvardiol, Josip Juranovic (Josip Brekalo, 74); Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric (Luka Ivanusec, 114), Mateo Kovacic (Ante Budimir, 79); Bruno Petkovic (Andrej Kramaric, 46), Nikola Vlasic (Mario Pasalic, 79), Ante Rebic (Mislav Orsic, 67). Manager: Zlatko Dalic 

0-1 Pedri (OG) (20) 
1-1 Pablo Sarabia (38)
2-1 Cesar Azpilicueta (57)
3-1 Ferran Torres (77)
3-2 Mislav Orsic (85)
3-3 Mario Pasalic (92)
4-3 Alvaro Morata (100)
5-3 Mikel Oyarzabal (103)

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

The Greatest Euro Matches: France-Portugal (2016)

The European Championship of 2016 in France was expanded to 24 teams from the previous 16. UEFA needed to keep the money machine going, but it also meant that the structure needed to be changed: the top two teams would progress from the six groups, as well as the best third-placed teams. As it turned out, this would have interesting consequences in the tournament. 

France were big favourites in the tournament; the home team was building up a strong team for the 2018 World Cup (that they would go on to win) with a combination of experience and from its immense talent that played in some of the best teams in Europe. 

Hugo Lloris from Tottenham was goalkeeper and captain, while he also had a strong defense organised around Juventus’ veteran Patrice Evra, alongside Bacary Sagna from Manchester City and Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny. The midfield was perhaps the strongest in the world player for player with such superstars as Juventus’ machine Paul Pogba, West Ham’s elegant Dimitri Payet, PSG’s Blaise Matuidi and Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko. A new player was the fantastic Ngolo Kante who counted for almost three players with his enormous work-ratio. Attack was also strong, with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, as well as the talented youngsters Kinglsey Coman and Anthony Martial from Bayern Munich and Manchester United respectively. The side was managed by the captain of the 1998 World Cup winners, Didier Deschamps. 

 France did not have to qualify, and they won their first stage group surely, but without showing much. They defeated Romania 2-1, Albania 2-0, and a 0-0 tie with Switzerland put them in first spot and a knock-out match against Ireland, which they won 2-1. In the quarterfinals they faced the surprising Icelanders, whom they defeated 5-2, and the semifinals were the first match where one felt they were really tested, as they faced their German archivals who had so often defeated them, but they won 2-0 and were in the final, and all of France were ready to lift the trophy in Paris as they were to face Portugal. 

Portugal had won their qualification group ahead of Albania and Denmark. The Iberian side had a strong team led by the Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo who was widely considered the best player in the world alongside Lionel Messi. But manager Fernando Santos also had other strong players: Pepe from Real Madrid, Monaco’s Ricardo Carvalho, and Bruno Alves from Fenerbahce in defense. In midfield players included Monaco’s Joao Moutinho, as well some extremely talented youths such as William Carvalho and Joao Mario from Sporting, Renato Sanches from Benfica and Andre Gomes from Valencia. Finally, the powerful striking force of Ronaldo was well-complemented with experienced veterans: Nani from Fenerbahce and Ricardo Quaresma from Besiktas. 

There was no doubt it was a powerful team that had ambitions to win their first international tournament after their 2004 debacle at home to Greece in 2004.

But Portugal did not start well in a group they were expected to dominate. In their opening match they only managed a 1-1 against Iceland, who was playing their first match in an international tournament ever, and were equals to the Portuguese stars. In the second match Portugal only managed 0-0 against Austria, and were up against the wall against Hungary in the last match, where after being behind three times they managed to get a 3-3 tie. 

Three points after three ties was not impressive, and with 16 teams Portugal would have been out of the tournament, but with 24 teams they just passed to the knock-out stage as one of the best third-placed teams. It was not elegant, and despite its attacking power Portugal played a defensive and holding style. In the last-16 they defeated Croatia 0-1 after extra time, when Quaresma scored the winner nearly before the penalty kicks. In the quarterfinals they defeated Poland after penalty kicks. Only in the semifinals did Portugal get their first victory in the tournament in ordinary time, when they defeated Wales 2-0, and this was enough to take them to a final against the giant favourites of France. 

Now, the only reason this match is among the greatest matches, is because it was the final where Portugal won its first international senior title. It was in footballing terms an awful match that ended a very disappointing tournament. The greatest drama happened midway through the first half when the great Cristiano Ronaldo got injured and had to be taken out in tears. One has to wonder if this was the best for a Portuguese side that did not play well but fought on as underdogs with heart and soul against a French home side that despite having the ball and the initiative completely lacked ideas and penetration. 

The match ended 0-0 and had to go into extra time, and at this point Portugal seemed to pressure more as they saw their chance against a team that was getting more desperate as time went by. Perhaps Portugal had learnt from their 2004 defeat at home to Greece? 

In extra time the Guinea-Bissau born striker from Lille, Eder, who had come on for Renato Sanches late in the second half, scored the winner on a flat long-shot from outside the area. Portugal were understandably ecstatic for their first title, but for football fans it was a hugely disappointing final of what was perhaps the least memorable European championship ever (unless you are from Portugal or from Iceland).  

Paris, 10th July 2016, Stade de France 
Attendance: 63,170 
Referee: Marc Clattenburg, England 

France-Portugal 0-1 

France: Hugo Lloris (c); Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna; Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet (Kingsley Coman, 58), Moussa Sissoko (Antony Martial, 110); Olivier Giroud (Andre-Pierre Gignac, 78), Antoine Griezmann. Coach: Didier Deschamps
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Pepe, Jose Fonte, Cedric, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Renato Sanches, (Eder, 79), Adrien Silva (Joao Moutinho, 66), Joao Mario; Cristiano Ronaldo (Ricardo Quaresma, 25), Nani.. Coach: Fernando Santos 

0-1 Eder (109)

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

New Spanish arrivals

So it has been confirmed: Kylian Mbappe is joining Real Madrid. Already the best team in Europe, the arrival of the great Frenchman would only seem to make it stronger, but at the same time we know how such an arrival can destabilize the team as different egos collide. That said, if anyone can manage such a situation it is Carlo Ancelotti. That said, it is also interesting how Mbappe will enter the tactical set up of Real Madrid. Both Carlo Ancelotti and Mbappe himself have proven quite flexible, so depending on the match it would appear that Vinicius Jr. could play on top with Mbappe on the left (and Bellingham just behind), or alternatively an Mbappe-Vinicius Jr attacking duo. It would appear that the main player losing his position would be Rodrygo.

But it remains to be seen.

FC Barcelona are struggling to catch up with Real Madrid. There was a circus in terms of Xavi leaving (first yes, then no, and then finally to leave anyway), and after many rumours it has been confirmed that the ex-Bayern Munich and ex-Germany manager Hansi Flick is to take over as FC Barcelona manager. He did not have much success as Germany manager, but as Bayern Munich manager he is perhaps best known in Barcelona as the one who presided over an 8-2 trashing of the Catalans in 2020. That said, he appears to be an interesting choice, although Circus-Barcelona probably needs much more than just a new good manager.

Real Madrid are favourites for the next season in La Liga.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Greatest Euro matches: England-Iceland (2016)

ll countries appear to have a golden generation in football, and the 2016 Iceland side most definitely count as Iceland’s Golden Generation, that put the small northern Atlantic nation on the footballing maps of the world. 

Already during qualification the Icelanders had caught the attention of the world: they were particularly strong at home in Reykyavik, not losing a single match, and defeating teams like the Czech Republic, Turkey and Netherlands. And it was the Netherlands that suffered the Icelandic unlikely rise, as the lost at home to Iceland, that sealed Iceland’s first qualification ever to a major tournament. 

Iceland’s squad was managed by the former Swedish manager Lars Lagerback, with lot of experience and who had built a solid team with a mixture of players from medium level European clubs. Their most notable player was the 38-year old veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen, who with a long career in clubs like Chelsea and Barcelona, was playing in Norwegian Molde at the time, but did no longer play a leading role. In the meantime players like Aron Gunnarsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson, from Cardiff and Swansea respectively, played leading roles. Defense was built around Ragnar Sigurdsson, from Russian Krasnodar and Kari Arnasson from Malmø FF. Midfield was complemented by experienced and solid players like Johann Berg Gudundsson from Charlton Athletic, Birkir Bjarnasson from Swiss Basel, and Emil Hallfredsson from Udinese. Finally, they had some interesting strikers in Jon Dadi Bodvarsson from 1.FC Kaiserslautern and Kolbein Sigthorson from Nantes in France. 

Despite their qualification results and the experienced side, expectations were not high as they drew giants Portugal, Hungary and Austria in their opening stage group, and they opened against one of the favourites: Portugal. Although Portugal heavily criticized the Icelanders for their defensive posture, truth was that the 1-1 result was not just surprising, but fully deserved, as the Icelanders showed that qualification had not been a one-off event. Followed by a large crowd of fantastic fans they went on to tie 1-1 with the later group winners of Hungary, and defeated Austria 2-1 to sensationally make it to the last-16, where they were to face none other than England! 

As almost every tournament, England entered as favourites, at least to themselves, but this time there seemed to be reason for some optimism: England had qualified in style, winning all their matches. The team, managed by the experienced Roy Hodgson, was full of players playing at the highest level in the Premier League, in teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. The team captain was the veteran superstar Wayne Rooney from Manchester United, complemented by other strong striker’s such as Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy. The Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart had experienced Gary Cahill from Chelsea in front of him. Experienced midfielders like Liverpool’s James Millner and Jordan Henderson, as well as Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere also complemented some exciting young players such as Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Tottenham’s Dele Alli and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling. 

All in all it seemed expectations were justified, and they had no reason to complain about their first round grouping with Wales, Slovakia and Russia. 

But it did not start well. The first match against Russia ended 1-1 with a last minute Russian equalizer. In the derby against Wales England pulled a hard-fought last minute 2-1 victory, only to miss winning the group when they only tied 0-0 with Slovakia in the last match in a disappointing match. Still, without playing well, England was through and probably felt they had little to feat when facing Iceland in the knock-out phases. 

Roy Hodgson lined up a three-man defense and gave the opportunity to many of the younger players. In the meantime Iceland had no changes from their previous three matches, and although a hard fighting side, they also appeared predictable. 

Only 4 minutes into the match Daniel Sturridge was awarded a penalty kick that Wayne Rooney scored on. Perhaps England were two optimistic, but only two minutes later the defender Ragnar Siggurdson scored following one of the long throws from Aron Gunnarson, one threat that England knew they should have defended against. Iceland were on fire and barely ten minutes later the Nantes player Kolbeinn Sigthorsson got a shot through between the defenders. Hart was too slow, and although getting his hand on the ball and slowing it, it still passed him and went into goal. 

2-1 for Iceland, and much of the match to go, so one would expect England to pressure, and they did, but never really created much danger except for many long-shots that never really threatened the Icelanders who, as the match advanced, not only seemed to fight harder and harder, but also became more threatening in the counterattacks. Sigthorsson even came close to score on a bicycle kick, which would have been a complete humiliation for England. 

Many called it one of the greatest humiliations of an English side, but truth is that they played very poorly in a match where they should have shown more. Roy Hodgson immediately resigned while England had to lick its wounds and look forward to the next tournament. In the meantime Iceland and their splendid fans were unexpectedly in the quarterfinals facing the French hosts. They lost the match 5-2 in Paris, but it was definitely a memorable tournament for a side that took Europe with storm for the first time!

Nice, 27th June 2016, Alianz Riviera 
Attendance: 33,900 
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia) 

England- Iceland 1-2 

England: Joe Hart; Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling,; Danny Rose, Eric Dyer (Jack Wilshere, 45), Dele Alli, Daniel Sturridge; Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney (c) (Marcus Rashford, 86), Raheem Sterling (Jamie Vardy, 60). Coach: Roy Hodgson;
Iceland: Hannes Haldorsson; Birkir Mar Sævarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Ali Freyr Skulason; Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson (c), Birkir Bjarnason; Kolbein Sigthorsson (Elmar Bjarnason, 76), Jon Bodvarsson (arbor Ingvi Traustason, 89). Coach: Lars Lagerbäck 

1-0 Wyne Rooney (pen) (4) 
1-1 Ragnar Sigurdsson (6) 
1-2 Kolbein Sigthorsson (18)

Sunday, June 02, 2024

The 15th

I had expected Real Madrid to win their 15th Champions League title, although I must admit I had expected more from Carlo Ancelotti's side, and less from Dortmund, who all in all can hold their heads high.

Borussia Dortmund's fans are among the best in the world, and if it is measured in that, there is no doubt about who the Champions are: Borussia Dortmund fans.


In the meantime, Borussia Dortmund played a great first half, where their quick changes of pace left Real Madrid behind. But if anything they forgave too much and faced a Thibaut Courtois who has already won a Champions League for Real Madrid all by himself. Dortmund could easily have been leading 1-0 or 2-0 by halftime, but with 0-0 every fan surely felt that Real Madrid would come back.

Apparently there were no changes in the second half, but Ancelotti switching positions between Kroos, Camavinga and Valverde gave more balance in midfield, and while Dortmund continued playing a good match, things appeared more even until the 76th minute, when the match effectively ended.

Dani Carvajal got highest from a Kroos corner kick at the near post, and brought Madrid ahead 0-1. After all the hard word the reaction from Dortmund was feeble, and Real Madrid instead got more chances, and closed the match after Dortmund defender Ian Maatsen gave the ball away to Bellingham outside the area, and he passed the ball to Vinicius Jr. who scored for 2-0.

2-0 and another title for Real Madrid, who winning La Liga have also had a great season, and even though I am not a fan (at all) I have to grumblingly recognize their greatness.