Get this : Even Thierry Henry looked fabulous when he came on as a sub in the 2nd half when he scored a great goal.
Villareal looked and played tired for 60 odd minutes. But overcame a 1st half goal by Betis within a minute in which they scored twice. 2-1.
Real Madrid failed to breakdown a very focussed and enterprising Espanyol to end the day. In two weeks Atlético Madrid X Real Madrid.
National team return this weekend and mid-week next week.
4 teams in the Champions League.
Villareal, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atleticó Madrid all won their games to go top in their groups (or tie for #1 as in the case of Villareal and Atleticó)
4 teams in the UEFA Cup
Deportivo, Racing, Valencia and Sevilla all move on to the group stage of the 2nd tier European competition.
This weekend in Spain -
Villareal kick-off the weekend at home agains Real Betis followed by the biggest game of the weekend, Atleticó @ Barcelona!
El Kun X La Pulga
Agüero X Messi
I have a feeling that Barcelona will win this game to put back on track their title race. It is going to be an exciting game for sure!
Super Villareal :) Super Submarino
I havent blogged about football in 2 months! wow!
Villareal is #1 in Spain after 5 games, Although Valencia could push them down to 2nd after their game tomorrow on better goal difference.
What scenes in the Catalan derby!!! incredible!!! what is the recourse when the visiting fans start violence as was the case in Barcelona today when some idiots of FC Barcelona start throwing flares on the pitch in the home ground of Espanyol? No idea.
Good to be back :) Aupa Villareal!
Schedule for 08-09 season of La Liga has been announced. hmm.. all the heavy weight games are stacked in december and the corresponding return games in May.
My partisan support for Villareal aside, it will be interesting to see the progress of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona as well as that of the one of the best young coaches of last season Unai Emery (at Almeria) now at Valencia. At this point it looks like they will keep Villa and Silva which can only be good. Valencia is the worst managed top-flight club in all of Spain if not in all of Europe. But any team that has the likes of Villa, Silva, Joaquin, Albelda and Baraja is unlikely to have another bad season like the last one.
Atletico Madrid has been hyper-active in the transfer market. Lots of new faces and high hopes on playing the Champions league. But first they will have to negotiate the tricky Champions League 3rd round tie, which is going to be against a good team due to their low-standing in Europe.
Back to Barcelona, the key question is can Henry still do it? He will be relatively fresh owing to the early exit of France in Euro 08 and Bojan who did not play in the Euro. Barcelona is still shopping around Etoo and get one of Berbatov, Drogba or Adebayor to replace him.
I think if Messi stays healthy for the most part of the season, I feel they will be a tough team to beat not only in La Liga but in the Champions League as well.
Oh well.. this post is descending into transfer talk. I cut it here :)
A new era.
The Pep Guardiola era at FC Barcelona officially begins tomorrow. And it couldnt have been any more messier, stressful or hyped. On and off the field this off-season has been one of the most turbulent in the history of FC Barcelona. Starting with the horror movie that was their last season, players like Ronaldinho and Etoo showing a lot of dicontent and discord among the ranks. The beleagured Rijkaard was promptly shown the door after the last game of the season. Bring the curtains down on a period 5 years in which Barcelona won 2 Spanish league titles and 1 Champions League in true Barcelona style 'wow'ing all the world with their slick football.
And then things started going south in 06/07 when they lost La Liga title to Real Madrid in the penultimate game of the season in an incredible few months of meltdown. And it got worse last season.
And then all the off-field non-sense of the president and his politics. That guff doesnt belong here.
So here is FC Barcelona circa 2008. Definitely No Ronaldinho. And mostly likely no Etoo either. Deco is already gone. Messi will play the first month or so as he plans to play in the Olympics for Argentina. The biggest signing they have made this year is that of Right back Daniel Alves from Sevilla and the impending purchase of Adebayor from Arsenal.
Will that be enough to take them past Real Madrid, who have been trying to finish the deal of Ronaldo from Manchester United. This garbage is running longer than Hanna Barbera. Ughhh!
Now this is Guardiola's team. The affectionate Catalan son returning to take over the reins of the team. The same player from the Dream Team of Barcelona of 90s. This is all such goody-goody storyline. Only that all of this doesnt matter if Pep cannot deliver. The pressure will be on. He has to first ensure Barça makes it to the group stages of the Champions League. And that without his best player. Leo Messi.
It is Guardiola time in Barcelona!
Jorgé - Amigo! what do u think?
What a mess this is turning out to be at Barçelona. Completely overshadowing the steady work of new coach Pep Guardiola building a team with a new identity and character at Barçelona with the imminent loss of Ronaldinho and Etoo.
Barça is still missing a #9 in the mould of Etoo. Henry.. seems like a spent force. Rest of the Barçelona midfield is very very small and at times is trigger-shy.
Uiy Qué pena esté señor Laporta y todo el rollo de la moción de censura.. las politicas.. ay ay ay!
Al menos nos falto un mes más de este periodo de las porquerias y tonterias.
What a mess Mr. Laporta and the whole circus has been.. We have a month of this madness left before the games start.
A flurry of activity followed the Spain triumph in Vienna on the 29th of June. But mostly dealing with the ugly yet unavoidable reality of world football. Transfer talk and the gaudy sums of money associated with them.
Luis Aragones goes to turkish giants Fenerbahce. Language and cultural barriers aside, Luís is a very good coach. And Fener is a club willing to buy him any player he wants. Spanish League top-scored Dani Güiza is reportedly on his way to Istanbul.
Frankly I dont like much of this phase. Transfer talk. Rumors. Mudslinging between clubs and managers across Europe and sometimes across continents.
Proper football action atleast 6 weeks away.
The transfer talk is getting boring already.
Bring on the games. :)
Campeones! Oé Oé Oéeee!!!
Not this time around.
The Germans started briskly. Spain trying to probe the opposition looked as if they were running on eggshells..barefoot. Soon enough the killer (almost) backpass from Sergio Ramos almost had Klose poking home the first goal. Luckily for Spain, Klose's first touch was too heavy and Puyol had no difficulty dealing with it.
Germany get increasingly frustrated as the Spain keep passing the ball around, changing the pace and Xavi was a master controlling everything from the middle.
Its over. Se acabó!!!!
It all boils down to this. Spain X Germany. España X Alemania! the final.
In less than 24 hours, Spain will step on the field to end a generation of misery, ridicule, 'curse' (maldición) and finally do some justification to the vast talent they had in the past and the present.
44 years since their only Championship.
24 years since the last time they were in a Final.
There is a lot of pressure on this team to wipeout decades of disappointment of a nation who always were up with the best in the world as far as talent players and technical ability is concerned. But too often they cant rise in adversity. They seem to lose against opponents who seemed mentally tougher than themselves. Or too often they get ridden with internal strife in the squad.
Things have been refreshingly different this time around in the Spanish camp. Almost none of the players who featured in those losses in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Players like Torres and Fabregas exceling outside of Spain helped in giving an added dimension to the team. Aragones stuck to his guns by not including popular players who he didnt believe as a part of his setup in Raul and Joaquin.
After a tentative start (eventhough masked by the scoreline 4-1) against Russia, they faced a tough opponent in Sweden. Villa won it for Spain on a last gasp solo run in added time. the largely 2nd team came from behind to beat Greece 2-1 to complete a perfect group record.
And their reward for sweeping group D is a QF clash with dreaded, loathed Italy - the defending world champions. Spain always believed that they play better football than the Italians who are supposed to win through their sheer will to win, physical play and gamesmanship and cheeky tactics. The Italians have a 4 World Cups and a Euro to Spains only Euro.
Italy missing Pirlo, seemed to play for penalties from the get go. They stifled the more enterprising Spanish for all of 120 minutes. Penalties. Spain for once took their penalties with aplomb and riding on the 2 saves of Iker Casillas exorcised 2 ghosts in 1 match.
1. The Italians - The Spainish havent gotten past the Italian in 88 years.
2. QF curse - The Spanish have taken on the dubious tag of QF Bottlers as they havent gotten past that stage in a major cup for the past 20 odd years.
Semifinal against a resurgent Russian team who had beaten the dutch at their own game in a scintillating display of attacking and running football in the QF. Spain never worried about Russian resurgence despite all the hype and the gungho statements that the Russian's have come of age in the span of a few matches. Sadly for the Russians all those who believed in the hype didnt include the Spanish.
The slick spanish passing ran the Russians ragged for the better part of an hour before scoring the 1st and then the 2nd and then the 3rd to put them out of the tourney. In the process they lost David Villa for the final. A big loss. One that cant be filled without changing their tactics. Spain reverted to a 4-5-1 system and will employ them same against the Germans in the final today.
This is it. Spain are ready to end the wait of 44 years today.
There is no point in talking formations and tactics. Spain is playing against itself, its history and all the disappointment of its predecessors. To be fair, this bunch has already broken through the glass ceilings which seemed insurmountable in the past.
As the old saying goes :: Finals are to be won. And none remembers who finished 2nd.
Vamos a ganar!
A final llegó el día.
España X Italia en Vienna. Hoy.
Todo la afición de la Furia Roja.. espera.. a una victoria ante los Italianos. Ante La actual campeona del Mundo. Ante un equipo que lo sabe como sobrevivir cuando las cosas y la suerte no estan en su lado. Así que una paradon espectacular del Buffon a un penalti de Mutu ante rumania la dejo con vida en el torneo, y luego ante un equipo Gallo que esta pasando de su peores momentos, gano y califico a las cuartos.
Todos los ganadores del grupo ya dijeron adiós a la copa. Portugal, Croacia y Holanda los ganadores de los grupos A, B, C perdieron en las cuartos.
Asi las estadisticas no ayudan a España.
David Villa o Luca Toni?
Veremos! Espero que gane España :)
Vaya Vaya España!
Italy seems to have forgotten how to defend and France well they seem all at sea, so much so that their coach either doesnt know or doesnt want to play the best formation to take advantage of the exicting young talent he has at his disposal.
Retreads and retirement candidates like Viera, Thuram wont help them. Henry is past his prime longtime ago.
Italy on the otherhand seemed to play good in patches but their defence and Luca Toni's terrible first touch have left them in the mess they are in. When they did get their line-up right in the 2nd game they ran into a spirited Adrian Mutu and Romania. Thanks to Buffon they are still in the hunt for the 2nd place.
However, the France X Italy match will turn into a dead rubber if Romania wins against the Oranje Crush who are sure to rest most of their line-up from the 1st 2 games.
Cant wait for the games to start! One of those days you wish you had 2 pairs of eyes to watch these games simultaneously!
Prediction - Everything points to a Romanian win. So I go the opposite. Romania gets beat by Holland 3-2 and much to the chagrin of a lot of Italian fans France will go through with 1-0 in the 84th minute.
Bye Bye Austria - if only you had a half-decent striker.
The last time Austria shocked West Germany 3-2. They have to do it again tomorrow if they want to advance to the 2nd round.
Defying all logic, form, strength of squads the Austrians actually seem to believe it. The coach of Austria was a part of the miracle 30 years ago. Even he believes they can achieve this and not losing anytime to point out that the pressure is on their more illustrious neighbors.
Germany on the otherhand seemed a total disaster against a well drilled Croat outfit 3 days ago and with injury doubts to Podolski and Lahm, their run-up to this game which suddenly became a do-or-die game has been anything but ideal. German coach Loew has promised a different looking and a more hungry German team come Monday. They better be at their 100%. Because the Austrians are going to be at their peak, and have the huge home crowd behind them.
Can Austria pull this off? or the Germans will regain their composture to advance to take on Portugal in the QF?
At the beginning of the Cup, I thought this would be one of the boring games. Boy was I wrong :)
The other game has Poland play Croatia. The Poles still have a mathematical chance to qualify they win and Austria wins and end with higher GD than they Austrians. Improbable but no impossible.
cant wait for day 11.
Czechs score in the first half and then again in the 2nd half.
2-0 and 15 minutes to go. Turks are truly out of this.. not a bad guess. Only that we forget the Czechs are big-time chokes.
Look at WC 2006. They spanked the US in the first game, only to lose their next two to Italy and Cote d'Ivore in bizarre fashion to crash out of the cup.
Going back to Euro 2004 they lost to a silver goal of the Greeks in the last minute of 1st extra time!
Further back to 96 they lost to the golden goal of the 3-week wonder striker Oliver Bierhoff of Germany.
History repeated itself for the Czechs and the poor old Bruckner who is retiring after the Euro.
Arda Turan, the man that revived Turkish hopes against the Swiss scored in the 76th minute. Suddenly the Turks are firing on all cylinders and the resolute back four of Czech Republic started wobbling.
Fouls, more fouls and the cards. and then the GK Cech drops a cross at the feet of Nihat, the lethal but grossly underestimated striker who plays for Villareal(vaya submarino :)).
And then Nihat scores a superb goal in the 89th minute to avoid penalties!!!
There was more drama to follow.
Turkish GK is sent off for a 2nd yellow for timewasting. But Turkey had made all the 3 substitutions by then. One of the Outfield players had to don the keeper gloves for a minute or so. Imagine the surreal mess had the Czechs scored a 3rd and took it to penalties. But the Czechs had lost it by then. They just choked.
Croatia faces Turkey in 4 days. I think they will be careful of the Turkish resilience. In all the 3 games they showed great spirit in coming back from a deficit, eventhough they didnt score against Portugal in the opener, the played a better 2nd half than the Portuguese on the opening day.
Swiss get their first win in Euros when the beat a 2nd string Portugal team. None of the big stars for Portugal played the game and sometimes this sort of things can hurt the momentum of the team. But I dont think that is the case with this Portuguese team.
But their most likely opponent in the next round is Germany, who have to beat the hosts in Vienna tomorrow!
Match day 2 ended with todays games with 2 teams eliminated, 4 teams qualifying for the QF and 10 teams fighting for the remaining 4 QF berths.
Sweden can feel undone by the late goal of Villa but they didnt deserve much in a game where they had the Spanish frustrated for long spells during the game. The injury to Ibrahimovic didnt help either. But they are still in with a good chance against the Russians. A draw is enough to carry them into the Quarterfinals where the Oranje Dutch are waiting.
Oranje all over Euro2008.
This is still group stage. But 2 games into it, they have decimated the finalists of the 2006 world cup.
How long were the odds on Netherlands and Romania advancing from group C last week? No idea but they must have shortened considerably by now :)
I am running backlog on reports. I have to do it. What to do? I use up all my time to watch.. and marvel.. no time to write as I have to work for Uncle Bill as well.
I thought Austria would surprise and they were distinctly unlucky not to get atleast a point against Croatia. After the first 20 min when they looked every bit the 'weakest link' of this tourney, they improved by the end of the 1st half. That fateful 20 minutes included a penalty for Croatia which was well taken by Luka Modric.
Austria played much much better in the 2nd half. They sent in 3 attacking substitutes and Croatia were on the ropes for sustained periods in the 2nd half. Austrians did everything except putting the ball in the net.
The had one last chance in added time but it was not meant to be for the co-hosts. They looked much better than the dire and boring Swiss.
Moving to the 2nd game of the day, one of the favorites Germany playing debutants Poland. As I wrote in the previous post, a lot has been said and written about this game. A lot of it unnecessary rubbish, as usual.
Germany started a very attacking lineup including 2 center forwards in Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose + Lucas Podolski on the left as a winger and the always dangerous Philip Lahm at right back.
The pace of the game was furious at the beginning. Both teams had sharp chances in the initial exchanges. However Germany seemed more dangerous purely because of the kind of clincial finishers they have in Klose, Podolski and Gomez. Poland moved the ball nicely until the 3/4 of th pitch but they lose posession very easily in front of the German box.
As expected Jens Lehmann had a couple of "lemon" moments :). But to his and germany's relief the Poles didnt have the means to exploit them.
Every time Germany attacked. they looked like scoring and in one of those attacks where Gomez gave a difficult pass with great technique to release Klose, who sees the keeper charging at him and passes it across to Podolski who was all alone himself to slot the ball into empty net. Great ball movement. The two poles(by birth) combined to score the first goal. As respect to his motherland and to not add more arsenic to the already hot controversial situation Podolski didnt celebrate his goal. neither did Klose. A sensible thing. In the situation it is very easy to rub it in by some ugly pre-planned celebration. It was refreshing to see something sensible.
2nd half didnt have the pace of the 1st half. Germany seemed to pull back a bit but they looked very very dangerous everytime they had the ball near the Polish box. There were a few rough challenges but nothing really serious.
Germany looked more likely to score the 2nd than Poland their 1st. Poland just didnt have the stuff upfront to make a move and score a goal. It was like watching a Ferrari race a drag-race car. Both had the break-neck speed but one can only travel in straight line and the other can do more sophisticated moves and avoid crashing into walls (the central defenders in this case :)).
And they did score towards the end of the match. Podolski again. Not much of a celebration. And soon after the Poles were put out of their misery.
After 4 games, I still have that empty feeling.
1. there are too many teams which wear red(home strip) in this cup. - Austria, Swiss, Czech, Spain, Turkey.
2. I dont like the fat blackstrip in the middle of the new germany jersey.
3. How many goals will germany score against Austria? 4 atleast :)
4. Alteast Kubica won his first GP, something to cheer for the Poles.
5. Rafa Nadal annihilated Roger Federer at Roland Garros. Alberto Contador won the Giro'd Italia last week. So is this the year of the Spanish? La roja? No no. all this means nothing. Just wait to see Spain struggle to score against Russia on Tuesday.
6. 4 games. 0 draws and only 1 team scored in each of the 4 games.
Worst Game(s) of the Cup(descending order)
>>Swiss X Czech game is easily the worst offering so far
>>Portugal X Turkey
Tomorrow >> France X Romania && Netherlands X Italy.
Romania is my dark horse. Mutu for Golden Boot :)
Its day 2 in Austria and Switzerland.
There is a huge buildup for the Germany and Poland game. Mostly due to what was said by the ex-manager of Germany, Klinnsmann in a team meeting (or something similar) and then the photos of a few german players beheaded along with polish coach Leo Beenhakker in a Polish tabloid. Leo has apologized since then but then the damage is already done.
Germany will win this very easily. They have too much all round firepower compared to the Poles.
The 2nd co-host Austria kick-off their campaign today. Widely tipped as not only the worst team in this edition of Euro but over the past few. That said, they are playing and home and might cause a surprise or two. Croatia is consensus dark-horse among the media. But I only remember similar tags attached to them in the last world cup 2 years ago. I think Austria might spring a surprise by getting a draw.
Ou la la! I have so much work to do. :(. Its weekend and these matches. Oh well... Back to work.
Oh and on the otherside of the draw, Spain is poised to play with two strikers. Villa and Torres in what would be a 4-4-2 formation. This in my opinion is better than 4-1-4-1 favored by the coach because 4-4-2 ensures Villa starts and they wont be too dependent on Torres to score. And then there is Xavi, the savior :). Vamos España!
I fell asleep 10 minutes into the first half. Woke up around the 40 minute mark only to see the disaster of Swiss captain and talisman Alexander Frei limp off the field in tears. I think his Euro 2008 is over. Really sad.
To be fair to the Swiss, they played better in the 2nd half and were distinctly unlucky with a couple of referee non-decisions of what seemed like handball fouls in the penalty area by Czech defenders.
An opportunistic (seemed a tad offside too) strike around the 70 minute mark sealed the deal in this game.
1-0 Fulltime. I dont think neither of these teams deserve to advance to the QF based on this result. They were dire.
Portugal x Turkey
This game promised more, and by and large delivered it. There was much more talent on display including the "world's best" Ronaldo. Portugal lined up in their usual 2-7-1 formation full of midlfielders and passers. Cristiano hit the post from freekick early in the 1st half. And Pepe had a goal ruled offside.
20 minutes of this game had more action than all of the SWI x CZE game!
Turkey looked dangerous on the counter-attacks and shaky in defence.
Portugal stroked the ball with confidence all over the park but as usual things will terminate either with a bad last pass or over-elaboration of the move.
Pepe wouldnt be denied in the 2nd half, when he slots a ball expertly in the far-post. Pepe looked more like a center forward than central defender in that move. May be Portugal should consider letting him make some runs at the opponents goal.
Turkey fought gamely but their midfield couldnt cope with likes of Ronaldo, Simao and Deco. Portugal sealed it in the dying moments with a counterattack when Turkey sent everyone foward pushing for an equalizer.
I think it will be between the Czechs and the Turks for the 2nd QF spot from this group. Portugal are poised to take the first. Swiss, well they are nice hosts.
Opening ceremony is on.
Swiss entertain the Czech's in the first game!
I am not a big fan of opening ceremonies but I appreciate the effort these people put to make it happen.
That was a quick and crisp ceremony. Teams are running to the pitch. Ou la la!
Anyone who follows football (ok, soccer) knows that international friendlies are usually dull and drab affairs which start of boring and slow only to degenerate into a farce of million subsititutions from both sides in the 2nd half. Players take it easy in their effort not to pick up an injuries and this being a post-season friendly most players just want to get over with and go for vacation.
So my expectations were pretty low. But I have never seen Brasil play live. If there is any team in the world that can WoW even with a 2nd string team, its gotta be the Brasilians. And their fans are known for their rabid support for their team and will go in numbers to support them, no matter where they play.
Enough preamble ramble.
Brasil brought their best team except for Kaka - injured and Ronaldinho (they say he is injured but well.. he is just tuned out of football these days). They brought Robinho, Diego, Adriano, Luis Fabiano, Danny Alves, Julio Baptista, Elano and the latest teen sensation, Alexandre Pato of AC Milan.
Canada - well I havent heard much about them. I know they have a very good player in Dwayne D'Rosario and Julian de Guzman who plays for the spanish club Deportivo La Coruña.
630pm - Entering the stadium. Sea of Yellow with a tinge of green. jerseys, caps, pom poms. facepaint, portuguese language and a few Red maple leafs as well.. loud and happening it was.
And then I spotted a guy with this T-shirt :)
The autograph of Ronaldo is beneath that papers taped to his shirt. I didnt ask for the price but I found it definitely enterprising. If it was autographed in 1994 and he has been trying to sell it this way then I wonder if he ever put it to laundry. :)). That said.. i think he is 5 years too late in trying to sell this. Ronaldo is way past his time.
6.45ish - Players came out to warm-up, to the loud cheers of the crowd especially when the Brazilian team strutted out.
7.30ish - American national anthem, followed by Canadian and the Brasilian. Crowd was well behaved all through, although I still dont get the point of playing national anthems before a game of football not least that of US cos they arent playing. I feel its kind of devaluing national anthem with people liquored up or having beer glasses in hands.
Oh btw - there were a lot of promotion for the Seattle Sounders and their title sponsors, Xbox 360.
Brasil quickly hit the top gear and before the Canadians could string a few passes together, Robinho was doing his thing. takes a ball on the left , near the byline, dummies a defender passes it to Diego (who plays for Werder Bremen) who slots across to the far bottom far corner.
The crowd erupts! trumpets, drums all kinds of noise. And I was impressed. As I said earlier, I never watched Brasil live. Their ball movement was smooth. The ball control. the moves.. its all there.. wow.. Canada are in for a long long evening..save for a small fact..
Brasil dont really have a defence. Dont get me wrong, the put a couple so called 'defenders' at the back, only that the dont know to defend. The can attack, pass the ball, run into advanced positions skillfully but man-on-man they can neither mark nor defend without fouling.
A long ball from Canada from the left into the penalty area.. Julio Caesar comes out to catch the ball and makes a meal of it as he get out-muscled by a Canadian forward (Friend is his name) who heads the ball seemingly from the outstretched hands of the keeper into the empty goal.
Canadian supporters were ecstatic. Their voices go up a few notches. I was sitting with a friend in the middle of Brasilian crowd and they were upset. Some swear words in Portuguese followed.
This happened around the 10-12 minute mark. From then on Canada played much better football, created more chances than Brasil. D'Rosario was every bit as good as I read he was. Rest of the players played well too. There was a #13 who played very well as well. with half-time approaching, Brazil score against the run of play. Nice cross into the 6 yard box, the big and tall Luis Fabiano jumps high to knock it in.
2nd half is where the friendly games usually descend into a farce. Luckily, this one didnt. Brasil kept the starters on. So did the Canadians.
And then came the goal of the match. Not from the Brasilians. But Shock Shock! O' Canada score a screamer!
From about 25 yards out Julian de Guzman picks up a lose ball (as a result of some typical clumsy defending from Brasil) and unleashes a quick shot into the top left corner. Julio Caesar had no chance of stopping that.
Around the 60 th Minute this was getting interesting. Can Canada stun the Brasilians? They kept up the tempo with tremendous work-rate.
If Guzman was hero 10 minutes ago, the fickle nature of football brings him crashing down to earth. He back-passes to his goalkeeper nonchalantly only to realise the horror that there was Robinho lurking for a mistake. The pass never makes it to the keeper. Robinhos intercepts, goes around the keeper and slots into an empty net.
What a mistake? he was not even under any pressure when he back-passes. He just made a hash of what could have been a great result for the Canada.
70 minutes+. Subsitutions galore. both sides. in comes, Adriano and Pato.
Adriano - I knew he is a big forward. Read and saw on TV. But to see him in person. he is really really huge. He is like a Hummer H3 among Rav4's and CR-V's. What a load.. You have to be really really strong to even foul him without hurting or making a fool of yourself. :):)
Both teams have a few more chances, mostly Brasil but Canada fought on gamely till the end. And thus it ended 3-2 to Brasil.
A 2-2 or 3-3 would have been a much fair result but then again, football is never fair. If there are any doubts ask Julian de Guzman.
'high' of my evening not related to football :)
All in all I had a great time but nothing can beat "Ou la la". There were a few french folks behind me - and heard "Ou la la" quite a few times. Somethings just cant be bought. This is one of those.
Conclusions and a few more pictures.
1. Brasil are a treat to watch
2. Brasilians defenders are at their best when they are attacking. they dont track back, they dont mark.
3. O' Canada has a very good team. If they can play this way in the WC 2010 qualifiers, they can make it.
4. Robinho's step-overs (bicicletas) are awesome.
5. Diego is a very good #10.
6. Brasilian fans are awesome. Even little babies have their own custom-made Brasilian shirts :)
7. I wish we get more big teams and good games in Seattle.
Qwest Field from outside - not enough power in the flash of my little canon
No seriousness attached to them.
Players try to protect themselves from any serious injury.
You cant read much into the performances of a friendly, good or bad.
But this is España. They are strong favorites to win the Euro 2008. Although, none of their past record gives any indication of that. They have the talent and quality players. Allover the pitch.
So when Spain has a bad friendly, a 1-1 draw against a woeful Peru (they are still playing as i write this but i dont think there will be any more goals) it is big news. All the nightmares of the past flash past you.
NEWS FLASH ::: Capdevila scores for España! va a ganar España 2-1!!! vaya golazo de Capdevila!
Continuing on, that goal doesnt hide the lame goal given up by the spanish defence. All the nightmarish underachievement of the past make you feel like the history will repeat again.
After tonight's game, I am still unconvinced by the Spainish team. Their best formation with 2 strikers Villa and Torres means they will play a lot of passing and the moves take a while to build up. Which is trouble in a group with Russia, Greece and Sweden.
And to play just a lone Torres up front, is not in their comfort zone as they are not long-ball team. The long-ball suits Torres perfectly as he demonstrated in Liverpool but in Spainish national team he may have to work a bit and adapt to playing on the ground and linking with the impressive David Villa.
Capdevila, like a few times before, saved the blushes for Spain. Wednesday's game against United States, who will provide a tougher opposition than what Peru offered will be a good indicator of what people can expect from Spain in their first game against Russia 10 days from today.
Ou la la!!! Less than a week left for the kick-off. :)
All the 16 teams have been announced. Some surprises like the sudden withdrawal of Clarence Seedorf from the Dutch national team for 'personal reasons' is quite a blow for their plans.
Others like Pavel Nedved stayed retired. No Francesco Totti. No Trezeguet. No Raúl. But Materazzi is coming..so opponents beware.
Austria is a total unknown to me. I am only slightly better with Switzerland thanks to their exploits in World Cup 2006. Greece is coming back. Quite a few of the all conquering (albeit in a boring way) 04 team are back.
Czech Republic is another team with a lot of new faces compared to the 2006 World Cup. Germany is bringing bank more or less the same team that played so well in 06.
Portugal - as usual are overloaded with midfielders and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Spain - Has talent strewn all over the pitch starting from Torres/Villa upfront to Pepé Reina, the backup goalkeeper. But that doesnt meant much as they rarely live upto expectations. There is no reason why the script cant be different this time but if history is any indicator of things to come, the usual script will repeat.
Italy - Alessandro Del Piero is in the best form of his life. Although he presents a challenge to coach Donadoni as to the position he fits in his system, its still a sensible move to have someone on a goal scoring streak over the past few months in the team.
France - A very strong team in a very strong group that includes the Netherlands, Italy and Romania. Trezeguet is the biggest omission from the squad. I think if were playing for any of the otther 15 teams in the finals, he would be selected based on his form and ability to score goals.
Russia - Russian football is riding high on the phenomenal success of Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Cup.
Sweden - Always a tough team to beat. Could be the swansong of the great Henrik Larsson. If Ibrahimovic is fully fit, they can cause a suprise.
Croatia - Their best striker Eduardo is out due to that huge injury he sustained playing for Arsenal a few months ago.
Turkey - Turkey is one of those teams with a lot of good players most of whom dont get the publicity as they play in the Turkish League. They are very capable of an upset or two.
Poland and Romania complete the 16 with a couple of solid yet unspectacular teams. Look out for Chivu, Contra and Mutu from Romania.
And I realized a few days ago that Leo Beenhakker is coaching Poland :). I know that he coached Real Madrid, Club ámerica in México and more recently Trinidad and Tobago to the world cup. But I am sure the old man has coached many more teams in his long career.
Frank Rijkaard has coached the final game for Barcelona on saturday.
Shame on the management of Barcelona for the way they handled the whole affair of him being replaced. But Frank never complained. Took all the blame for the wrongs of some of his extravagant squad.. most notably Ronaldinho.
Last year around February, Barcelona was cruising in the league. Had a huge lead over Madrid although their Champions League campaign didnt go as far, they were still expected to win La Liga. Madrid was in all sorts of chaos. The whole beckham saga of signing with MLS Soccerball LA Galaxy, the crowd's distaste for the practical and unstylish means of Fabio Capello. Suddenly something happened. Madrid caught fire. Ruud Van Nistelrooj carried this team and then when Beckham came back for the last 10 odd games they kept pulling win after win. That amazing run coincided with a funk of Barcelona and to this day they havent shaken off of that funk.
Frank is not blemishless. He is criticised for his lenient ways towards his players notably their training habits. He has always been that way. Its just that folks like Ronaldinho couldnt handle the huge success of winning 2 Ligas and 1 Champions League in 2 years. Rijkaard put Barcelona back on the map of European greats after the mess left by Luis Van Gaal.
One of the problems not very well publicised is the departure of his hardman assistant Henk Ten Cate at the end of last season. Henk was the guy who used to do the 'dirty job' of a task master in the coaching set up of Frank. Although it is well documented in Barcelona that Ronaldinho and bunch of other stars were never known for their affinity to training and practice.
Apart from the obvious contributions in trophies Frank overlooked the maturing of exciting youngsters like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Giovani dos Santos and Bojan Krkic, who no doubt will be his legacy.
The famous 4-3-3, the committment to attack and play attractive football, he never wavered from any of that. A case in point is that inspite of the wretched season Barcelona had, Manchester United barely got past them in the CL semis.
Thank you Frank for everything. Wish you all the best in your new job. I am sure you will find a great one. The people in Barcelona, Madrid and the Spanish league will miss you greatly. I was never a Barça fan, and I am still not one, but would love to see you back in Spain.
Adiós Frank. May be you are a good fit in Milan to coach Kaka, Pato & Co!
ps: Dag = Adiós = Bye in Dutch :)
Its a great run by the Rangers team scoring just 5 goals in 8 games! to progress to the final. Zenit had more enterprise and in the end they won it deservedly. Eventhough the first goal took all of 70 minutes to come, it was inevitable the way Rangers approached this game. As it is the case often, teams that come to defend cant switch gears after they get behind. And usually they stay behind till the end.
Congratulations Zenit! Well deserved win after beating some tough teams along the way including Bayern Munich, Villareal and Bayer Leverkusen among others.
That leaves us with the final of Champions League next week in Moscow between Chelsea and Manchester United.
La Liga is done and dusted. Relagation drama set to reign the last gameday of the season this weekend.
Premier League concluded.
Serie A is still alive thanks to the big-egohead Materazzi for refusing to let more accomplished players take the penalty. Now they travel to play against Parma who are fighting for their Serie A lives. Interesting stuff.
Gotta go home. Tiring day.
If you see their celebrations spilling over a few days one might wonder if they had won a big cup or league championship. No they did not win the spanish league. They came a distant but comfortable 2nd. Except for a couple of weeks they were never even discussed as serious contenders
Truth be told, they never considered themselves as title contenders. Thanks to the inability of the big clubs like Real Madrid and Barçelona to string together a few wins in the months of March and April meant that little Villareal found themselves in the midst of a title challenge. Can Villareal really pull it off. They had a couple of chances to close the gap with Madrid but they failed to capitalize. Call it nerves, lack of experience, out of depth, anything.
I think it doesnt matter.
Little Villareal from Vila-real notorious for
-having just one decent hotel,
-a small stadium that holds about 20,000 in a city (i am being generous) with a population of about 45,000
-languishing in the lower levels of spanish regional leagues not so long ago ( about 9 yrs ago)
is 2nd in arguably the worlds best league top-to-bottom.
With 1 game to go:
Villareal has 74 points.
Real Madrid has 82.
Barçelona has 64.
If they win their last game Villareal will end the season on 77 points.
To put it in perspective, 77 points would have won La Liga in 6 of the last 10 years!!!
I think thats an incredible achievement for a small club. And they achieved it playing very attractive football for the most part. They do play on the counter a lot of times but thats not for the lack of skill or the ability to play a possession football ala Barçelona, they adapt to the opponent.
One of the keys to their success is playing a consistent style of football home and away. They have the 2nd best away record in La Liga (on Madrid has a slightly better record). Strong midfield play with Senna, Pires and Cazorla support potent but undervalues strikers like Nihat and Rossi (yep! he used to be a Man Utd player 2 seasons ago.). An all round good team without any superstar but not many passengers either. And a great coach in "El Profesor' Manuel Pellegrini.
A few years ago this team was over-reliant on a bunch of Argentinians led by the moody genius Juan Roman Riquelme. They had that amazing run in Champions League when they lost by a whisker to Arsenal (Riquelme missed a penalty that would have sent that tie to overtime). He followed it up with the typical moody and unprofessional behavior. Pellegrini had built the entire game of Villareal around Riquelme. Results dried up. Riquelme got worse. And the midway through last season the professor had enough. He decided he wont use Riquelme anymore. Shock waves through Spain...(errr.. not true... i made that up :)). Everyone thought that thats the end of Villareal's fairy tale couple of season. They were teetering towards the mid-table mediocrity.
They had signed Pires at the beginning of last season but he got injured pre-season. He came back in the later parts of the season. He helped beat Barçelona in his first full game after the long injury layoff. It was written off as a one-off win then. Then they win 9 games in a row to close the season in 5th!.
The message to Spain and Riquelme in particular was clear. Villareal has moved on. The clawed back from adversity. I am not exaggerating but its really difficult for small clubs to come back from such a talismanic loss and getting over the hangover of a fairytale season. There are a lot of examples where small teams have had their moment in the sun and faded into oblivion. Villareal is one of the few clubs that rewrote that script.
This season they used a lot of players from their youth system. They made 15 mill Euro by selling Diego Forlan (who they got for almost free from Man Utd) to Atletico Madrid.
Matías Fernandez is an exciting talent.
It helps that they are managed nicely and their owner is dedicated to the long term future of the club. One of the little known facts is that they have one of the better youth systems in Spain and a fantastic training facility.
Cheers to Villareal! Aupa Submarino! Vaya Vaya!
Looking forward to next season, things will get much tougher for the Yellow Submarine. People expect more. Opponents will try to break them down more. They are in the Champions League group phase where they will face atleast 2 clubs with a much higher pedigree and longer history than them. But I think they can succeed. If they can keep their coach they is a very good chance of repeating the success of this season.
One of these days I would like to go watch a game in El Madrigal. Wearing the Yellow Jersey!Submarino Amarillo! :) :)
As Nihat put it after clinching the 2nd spot:
2nd in La Liga is as good as winning the championship for Villareal.
Whle i dont normally subscribe to that filosofy, I will give it Villareal...only this year. Next year they have to aim for the 'real' championship.
If they can hold on to their coach and keep playing this way next season, they can be the next Villareal :)
No kidding. The UEFA cup quarterfinal between Getafe and Bayern Munich was an epic. Did anyone follow this game?
This is the 2nd leg of the Quarterfinal. 1-1 was the result in Munich. 90th minute away goal by Getafe. A monumental upset on the cards. Getafe is a small club at the southern outskirts of Madrid. They don’t have much of a history in the Primera Liga much less in terms of winning trophies. Their best showing was a final in the Copa Del Rey in Spain last season( they are in the final again this season). They never sold-out their nice little stadium ever. The other thing they are notorious for is the fact that their president is a life long registered member of the Real Madrid fan club.
In that backdrop this team of no-names played out of their skins to get the away goal and draw in Munich. Their best player that day was the young Spanish midfielder Rueben de la Red apart from the goal scored Cosmin Contra(does anyone remember him play for Inter Milan or some big Italian club for a while). Over the last week so much build for Getafe (now christened as “euro-geta”). The stadium sold-out. The king of Spain who doesn’t watch much football normally, decided to watch this one. The crown prince too. And then a few stars of Real Madrid and a whole bunch of other big suits are in house to watch the beloved EuroGeta hold out the European giant Bayern. (the joke was that everything and everyon except the Olympic torch were present at the game). Getafe missed some players due to injury and accumulation of yellow cards but then again.. its not like they had any super-stars to begin with.
Opening of the game was electric. Bayern almost scored in the first minute. (uiy uiy! Madre mia!sufriendo el Geta ). Disaster in the 5th min. De la Red direct red for a foul. Seemed a bit harsh but I was just listening and to a radio station from Madrid so it was injustice.. UEFA wants big clubs in the finals.. referee is bought.. bla bla.. all the usual stuff. .
Geta re-jigs a bit.. pull a striker back to play midfield. They lined-up 4-4-2, brave when even bigger teams line-up with a packed midfield to stifle opposition with the away goal advantage. More disaster. One of the midfielders is injured and had to be subbed. (oh and the usual referee is bought comments continue with every whistle that goes against the home team) Bayern starts peppering the 18 yd box of Geta.. lots of crosses misses a few that hit the post and a lot of desperate defending.
And then close to half-time.. comes the Gol!!!!! Geta scores!!!! That man Cosmin Contra again! 1-0 getafe. The king and the prince jump from their seats to celebrate (as described in the radio.. 10 Vs 12 (referee included) and still Geta scores!). Incredible game. After the redcard I didn’t think they stand a chance against the powerful Bayern side. Amazing that they went a goal up at halftime. Second half saw more desperate defending and goalkeeping. Getafe had their moments to score a 2nd and make it difficult for Bayern. About a minute or two left in the regulation. Bayern force corner after corner and finally to the stunned silence and the disappointment of all of Spain (and myself) Bayern equalizes… .
I was absolutely sure Geta will shut it down try to take it to penalties. Cos Bayern had the following 4 attackers on the field. Toni, Klose, Ribery and Podolski. Boy was I wrong. Getafe scored 2 in the first half of extra-time. 3-1! 1 playing a man down for almost all the game against a very superior opponent (atleast on paper). Bayern intensified their attack and the game was practically being played in or around the penalty box of Getafe. Luca Toni scored the 2nd in 117th minute. Nerves. Nerves. Toni scores a definitive and a cruel (for everyone except Bayern fans may be) 3rd in what would be the last moments of the game! 3-3. Bayern eliminates Getafe on away goals.
I think this is the first time I ever wished we had the Golden goal or even the Silver goal rule. As it always happens, “almost” doesn’t make it.
Super game. Cruel result. Aupa Geta !
Team(s) : Villareal CF. El submarino Amarillo. The Yellow Submarine. Aupa! will finish #2 in the league which means direct entry to the UEFA Champions League group stage next year. Losses at key moments meant they couldnt mount a challenge to Real Madrid who had their share of ups and downs through the season. Players to watch out : Matías Fernandez - Matígol, ' el turco' Nihat.
Chivas Guadalajara. El rebaño sagrado. the best team in México which hires only Mexican players born on Mexican soil. In the play-offs of the Mexican League this season. Arriba Las Chivas!
And of late Getafe! - the reason - see the next post :)
Countries : India (i hope to see them play in a World Cup in my lifetime), Argentina (Maradona is God!), México, and sometimes Spain, Italy.
Players : too many to list.
Style : Good football in general. Lots of ball movement and players moving well without the ball. Pace is good but just running up and down gets boring. Man marking like Greece in Euro 2004 in any way shape or form is a no-no.
Radio or TV? I love radio. Especially live narration in Spanish :). From Argentina to Mexico to Spain. Awesome!
A few years ago my dream was to travel to Germany for the 2006 world cup and soak in the atmosphere and experience. As it goes with a lot of dreams, it didnt happen.
2 years on.. its Euro 2008. I am not going their either.
Lots of passion for football, so much that at times I wish I were a football reporter.
The plan is to keep this blog going even after Euro 2008 and if all things go for me upto 2010 when I plan to go to South Africa.
I have the crazy habit of writing in multiple languages (eventhough I cant claim expertise in any of them). Spanish mostly.
So here I go again.