Monday, July 26, 2004

Jurgen Klinsmann, new German coach

Jurgen Klinsmann was a great striker. I particularly remember his great goal against South Corea in USA 1994, when he tipped the ball to himself, turned in one move, and scored. Also, in Italy 1990, when he was a one-man attack, after Rudi Voller had been showed a red card.
Now, Mr. Klinsmann has been selected to succeed Rudi Voller as coach of the nationalmannschaft, whom he will have to lead to a World Cup triumph at home in 2006. He will not face an easy task, just as Mr. Voller did not. Germany is in awful lack of great talent, and is producing no strikers, in spite of the legendary ones they have fostered before, as Mr. Klinsmann himself. It will be interesting though, to see what he can do, with organisation, fight and will, things that have characterized German football before.
I hope he is fortunate, because Germany is always a great footballing nation to confront for anyone.
So from here, congratulations Mr. Klinsmann, and all the best!

Brazilian Greeks

Recently, in Copenhagen, I went to a concert with the marvelous Brazilian musician (and Minister of Culture), Mr. Gilberto Gil. In a rainy night, the crowd was a pleasant mixture of Danes, tourists and expat Brazilians. As a great artist, Mr. Gil played an Argentinian tango, in dedication of their South American brothers. Most Brazilians present at the concert, whistled at this dedicaiton to the neighbors.
This just to show that although I want to love Brazilians, I find it hard to. More so after their undeserved victory against a strong Argentinian side in the Copa America (first time that has ever happened) after penalty kicks.
Brazilians have all the reason to think they are the greatest footballing nation. They are. And tonight, they can formally call themselves Champions of The Americas. Congratulations to the Brazilian players. But Brazil is champion, having played like the Greeks, and making a shame at their own traditions of entertaining attacking football. The only team attacking, was Argentina. What an irony thinking of some of the earlier times when "bilardismo" swept Argentina with a defensive style. The roles have changed.Brazil has been loved for playing delightful and happy football. What an irony that they now are turning into the Greeks of Latin America.

Friday, July 23, 2004


Two of the greatest football nations are playing the final of the 41st Copa America on Sunday: Argentina and Brazil. Time for some numbers on the many encounters...

These two great nations have played 90 times before: Argentina has done marginally better with 36 victories, Brazil has 33, while they have tied 21 times.
While Brazil has won the World Championships an amazing 5 times, ahead of Argentinas two victories. However, in the Copa America, Argentina has a confortable lead with 14 victories against Brazil's 6 (Uruguay has 14 victories like Argentina). More interesting though, is that this will be the 9th final of the Copa America where these two giants face each other. But in the previous eight encounters, Argentina has won every time. Last time was in 1991, when Argentina defeated Brazil 3-2 in Santiago de Chile (Notice though, that this was not a final as such, since the tournament was played as a final group stage).

This time, I believe Brazil stands good chances of taking home the trophy. But the Argentines are stable and good. It will be another great encounter to add to the earlier 90!


There are plenty of more statistics and information on the excellent
official site of the Copa America 2004

Monday, July 19, 2004

Copa América semifinals

After this weekend's quarterfinals, the semifinals are:
July 20th: Argentina-Colombia
July 21st: Brazil-Uruguay

Two classic games:
Argentina-Colombia, is very special for the Colombians, who have a hard time forgetting their legendary 0-5 victory in Buenos Aires in 1993. The games are usually exciting and intense encounters, and this one will be no different. Persnally, it is a special game: I learned all about football when living in Argentina, and my football-heart is thoroughly Argentinian. On the other hand, I am half Colombian...
Brazil-Uruguay: Two world championship winners. Although a long time ago for Uruguay, it is still the smallest country in the world with the greatest footballing traditions. Encounters between these two great nations have always been incredible; just remember the 1950 World Cup final, or the semifinal in the 1970 world cup.

Shame I will not be able to see these amazing games...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Copa América 2004

Many here in Europe (particularly in Greece) are passing a football hangover after the Euro 2004. However, for those of us who want to keep the ball rolling, there is currently the Copa América, now taking place in Perú, where 12 national teams are competing to become the best American football nation.

They have just reached the quarterfinals, and I will try my quarterfinal predictions:
Perú-Argentina: Very difficult game for the Argentinians against the home team, that has come from a second spot after Colombia in group A. Argentina also took a second spot after losing to Mexico, but utterly destroying Uruguay and Ecuador. However, a bit with my heart, I will tip Argentina as winners.
Colombia-Costa Rica: The defending champions of Colombia were undefeated in group A, and must surely defeat the Costa Ricans, who got the second best third spot, after a late 2-1 victory against Chile in their last game in group C.
Paraguay-Uruguay: To many people's surprise, Paraguay defeated World Champions Brazil in their last game in group C, to take the first spot. Now, although too often underestimated, Paraguay is a great football nation, and I believe they will defeat Uruguay. Uruguay, the best third, comes from a tie with Mexico and defeating Ecuador.
Mexico-Brazil: Brazil is always good, although they are without many of the stars from Europe. The Mexicans have defeated Argentina to win their group B, and were probably not expecting to be playing Brazil already. It will be an exciting game, and I believe that the Mexicans will manage to defeat the World Champions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The best and worst coaches of Euro 2004

Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Raul... All these were stars who were most notable by unfulfilled expectations in this past European Championship in Portugal. Besides a few notable (and to say the least surprising) exceptions, such as Theodoros Zagorakis, Traianos Dellas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Milan Baros and Wayne Rooney, the Euro 2004 in Portugal can be more characterized as absent of the stars that make football-legends. It was indeed a tournament in which the Greek victory symbolized the superiority of the group – underlining the centrality of football as a team effort. On the other hand, there were stars, and differently from many former tournaments, the real stars of this past European Championship were the coaches. This was indeed more because of the tactical prowess’s of some teams.
In any case, there were both good and bad coaches, and firstly, my top-five of the coaches who flunked:
5) Rudi Voller: I greatly admire Mr. Voller, and I still do. A couple of years ago, he did miracles with the Germany national team in Japan and Corea. This time, however, although clearly lacking attacking resources, Mr. Voller seemed to lack the courage to try something new in the games against both Latvia and the Czech Republic.
4) Iñaki Saez: While Spain lacked a complete team, Mr. Saez contributed to an already weak performance, by not showing that he believed in the Spanish qualities of attacking football. Instead, Spain played cowardly football far below what one could expect from such a proud football nation.
3) Dick Advocaat: Although the Dutch reached the semifinal, one was left with the feeling that there was much more in that team. Particularly, after the excellent period they had against the Czech Republic. Mr. Advocaat should have had more courage.
2) Giovanni Trappatoni: As so often, Italy disappointed. The Italian stars did not perform, and this was not due to the otherwise many lame excuses the Italians came up with. With the players available, Italy should surely have killed Denmark, Sweden and Bulgaria. Instead, two lucky draws and a hard-fought last-minute victory... Just not good enough.
1) Jaques Santini: Very anonymous coach in the shadow of all the French super stars. Seemed he did nothing but set the team. But a coach should be so much more than that!

Now, my top-five star coaches are:

5) Morten Olsen: Mr. Olsen's inspiration is the Dutch football school. He wants his team to have possession and dominate. This way, Denmark managed to dominate many games, even against the Czechs, although the inefficiency and the lack of highly technical players in the end proved fatal.
4) Aleksandrs Starkovs: I had not expected Latvia to perform at all. Instead, they put up good games against the Czechs and the Germans, in spite of the lack of experience and players. They played with spirit and fought well, something which I will credit Mr. Starkovs for.
3) Karel Brückner: In spite of the many stars available, Mr. Brückner never overestimated his team. Instead, he tried to adapt the tactics to the different teams, and showed they could both dominate, fight and defend. In the end, the loss of his "queen" (Mr. Nedved), in the semifinal against Greece, proved too difficult.
2) Luis Felipe Scolari: After the difficult start to the tournament, Portugal grew with each encounter. Mr. Scolari gave his players confidence, and let no one stand out. Not even Mr. Figo, whose replacement Postigo in the game against was a master-piece. On the other hand, did he underestimate the Greek defensive power..?
1) Otto Rehagel: With organisation and coolness, the udnerestimated Greeks deservedly won. Mr. Rehagel was crucial in giving them the will and discipline to go all the way, and showing that a team effort still is the most important aspect of football. Mr. Rehagel is the true star of Euro 2004.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Good news and some bad news....

The good news are is that Saddam Hussein is to be shot...

The bad news are that David Beckham is shooting...

Monday, July 05, 2004

Roskilde Festival: Nephew

I was at the Roskilde Festival all weekend. I guess a person sometimes needs to relax without football.
There is a Danish Band called Nephew. Their concert was absolutely great. Amazign sound, good beat, fun and engaging songs... I would have given the concert highest marks, six stars, but they will only get four. Firstly, the lead singer, Mr. Kvam, was wearing a Chelsea shirt during the whole game. Couldn't you have found a better team!!?? Secondly, he said Brøndby sucks, and every Dane with the least knowledge of football, knows Brøndby is the single best team in Denmark.
I am glad Nephew is a music band. I need to buy their record. But I obviously know much more about music than Nephew knows about football.
Thank you for a great concert though!

Cheers in ouzo for Greece!!!

Greece won. This was the most unexpected thing since the Danish victory in 1992. There are other similarities too. Both teams won with a strong and hearty team effort. While not too exiting to watch - actually a bit boring -, one can only admire the heart, discipline and organisation of the Greeks. Many people complain that this is boring, and will be bad for football. This is not true: firstly, no teams will go out and play like Greece. It takes a lot of discipline, and you need the right players. Secondly, Greece's victory have reminded us all (including myself), that football, in spite of all the hype for particular stars, is a team effort. Why are we so suprprised about this? We focus too much on the individual players, although football is a team effort, a team sport, and any team is only as good as its worse player.
Greece has not been the only one to remind us of this this season. Oporto's victory in the Champions League was also a surprise. Valencia's great season is also better explained by a strong team effort, just as Real Madrid's lousy season is a result of a bad team filled with good players! Once Caldas from Colombia was also a surprising winner of the Copa Libertadores, and now Greece puts the triumph on a season of surprises.
Let us see how Greece keeps up the good work in the next couple of years!
Congratulations Greece!!