Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A match to remember

No matter what happens in the rest of this seasons' Champions League we will remember last night's match between Manchester City and Monaco. 5-3 and a festival of goals and drama, the only bad thing that can be said is that at times defenses looked very shaky. But that has to be seen against the background of strikers who all seemed to have a good day: Radamel Falcao looked as a young man from his pre-Manchester United days (despite him missing a penalty against Willy Caballero, who may be better than hapless Claudio Bravo, but still had a difficult match alongside his defense) and Sergio Aguero had one of those rare days when he was world class in an important match.  But most impressive was the young Leroy Sane, who is really proving to be the best transfer this season.
Monaco impressed because of their attacking prowess and positive attitude, and Radamel Falcao's penalty miss when they were up 0-2 may have cost them the match, despite them eventually going up 1-3 before Manchester City's memorable comeback. Manchester City showed an amazing character which should give them confidence for better results.
The return match in Monaco will be a must-see for every football fans: Monaco must attack, which they have shown they can, against a City side that has shown they cannot defend, so must attack. Do not miss it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentines Day in Paris

Everyone, except FC Barcelona, seems to know that Paris Saint Germain has a quality team who under Unai Emery has learned to prepare for a match. And Barcelona seemed stunned the entire match as they proved inferior to PSG in every regard. It would have been nice to have a "Manita" to rub in Barcelona's faces, but in the end it was "only" 4-0, a result FC Barcelona can be most thankful about.
First about PSG: They seem to be the team of the future. Young players like Adrien Rabiot and Julian Draxler excelled, while "older" faces such as Marco Verrati, Angel Di Maria and Edison Cavani totally outshined Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Di Maria and Cavani both scored goals full of love on what was also their birthday.
The main reason for the result was a splendid PSG side who could go all the way if they play like today! But one must also mentioned FCB: the fact that they played such a horrible match can only be blamed on the manager, Luis Enrique. Do not mind the demotivated side, but some choices were simply awkward; Andre Gomes instead of Rakitic made them lose the midfield and Sergi Roberto was so bad as right-back (admittedly not his natural position) that it was like handing Draxler a highway to run on.
Barcelona are all but out of the Champions League and with meager chances of winning the Liga title, they may take a consolation with the Copa del Rey, but the question is whether this is enough for Luis Enrique to maintain his job.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Stuck in no-mans land when Cameroun won

I was unable to watch the Final of the Africa Cup of Nations because I was stuck in a second-rate football country because their lousy national airline could not get me off the ground to go to beautiful Liberia. And how is it that in this country there was nowhere to watch the final?
In any case, it was only great that Morocco was out in the first round, and hope they do not even make it that far in the future.

But much more important is that Cameroun won! The fact that I did not see it does not diminish the accomplishment of a team that not much was expected from at the start of the tournament, but who, most of all, showed discipline and camaraderie. They were perhaps the team that most wanted it, and to come from behind against such a defensively disciplined team as Egypt was a great achievement.
It is great to have the Indomitable Lions back among the best in the world!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Semifinal disappointments

The two semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations are over, and many did not expect the outcome, and are rightfully disappointed (myself included).
Burkina Faso played a great match against Egypt, and in particular in the first half were in total control. But the Egypt of Hector Cuper are extremely well-organized in defense and are deadly in counter-attack. Although Burkina Faso scored the first goal against the Egyptians in the tournament, the end result of 1-1 tokk the match to a penalty shootout where the veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary saved the day for Egypt.
The Burkinabe are understandably disappointed, but expect to see more to them in the future.

Then there is Ghana: a dominant African power who have been in the last 6 semifinals, but have not managed to win the tournament since 1982. And again they were favourites to beat a Cameroon side that has been full of problems in this tournament. But the problem with Ghana is that they see themselves as rightul champions: and you are no kind of champions until you have won the final. Cameroon won 2-0 on a match were they fought hard and just seemed to want it much more than Ghana. And that is the real credit of the match: an excellent Cameroon side that will surely give everything to defeat Egypt!

I had been hoping for a Ghana-Burkina Faso final. But while we can see these teams play for bronze, the final will nevertheless be very interesting!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Africa Cup of Nations Quarterfinals

The year has for me started a bit oddly, with a lot of travels and work that has not fully permitted me to dwell into football. This is a pity since one of the best tournaments that modern national team football has to offer has started in Gabon, namely the Africa Cup of Nations. And although I have only watched a few matches from my base in Monrovia, it is full of excitement!
Firstly, the hosts from Gabon were eliminated in a group won by Burkina Faso ahead of Cameroon. The most talked about was the elimination of the Gabonese, but credit to a tournament-oriented Burkinabe side and a Cameroon side of indomitable lions who have not gone beyond first round since 2010.
Gabon's elimination was not as sensational as that of the highly rated Algerians, who with a team full of stars were expected to make it far. But a defeat to Tunisia and ties to Senegal and Algeria saw them out with meager 2 points, while an exciting Senegal side won the group ahead of Tunisia.
Another big team eliminated were the defending champions of Ivory Coast. Much was also expected, but like the Algerians they also only managed 2 points with ties against DR Congo and Togo, while losing 0-1 to Morocco in the last all-important match. Morocco are not exciting to watch, but solid, and Ivory Coast's stars seemed to underestimate them. The big surprise was probably the DR Congo, who ended up winning the group ahead of Morocco, and will be one of the sides to watch.
In the last group Egypt and Ghana did what they were expected to do, easily outplaying Mali and Uganda and playing for first place tonight, in a match Egypt won 1-0, playing very intelligently against a Ghana side that could surely go all the way with its experience and talent.
With this great first round, we now have the following quarterfinals:
  • Burkina Faso-Tunisia
  • Egypt-Morocco
  • Senegal-Cameroon
  • DR Congo-Ghana
The matches promise to be great in a tournament full of surprises. Most of these teams follow their dreams of victory instead of dear of losing!!
Although I will not be in Africa to follow all the quarterfinals, be sure I will!