Saturday, November 26, 2005

George Best

George Best passed away Friday. He was one of the greatest players of all time. An incredible talent in Manchester United, where he played 465 games and scored 180 goals. He also received the award as best European player in 1968.

Mr. Best was however also known for his extravagant life off the football pitch. He had before suffered from his health due to his large alcohol consumption. However, every football fanatic will remember Mr. Best for the magic on the pitch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Brøndby in the UEFA Cup

Tonight the Danish Champions of Brøndby will be playing the second match in the UEFA Cup Group stage Group B, against Lokomotiv Moscow, in Moscow. This being the only Danish representation in European football this season, the game carries some weight for Brøndby. Furthermore, the Danish Champions have before had good results in the UEFA Cup.

Brøndby started this season's tournament well, by defeating Maccabi Petach-Tikva (from Israel) 2-0 in the first match. On the other hand, Lokomotiv Moscow has started poorly, only collecting one point in their first two matches. Although it is always difficult to play against Russian teams away, Brøndby's chance lies in the apparent bad period the Muscovites are going through: disappointment in Europe and in the domestic league, which currently is on winter-break. A good result in Moscow will really give Michael Laudrup's boys a head-start in the tournament, and make them very ready to face Espanyol and Palermo, who are the two other teams in the group (and who are facing one another tomorrow night).

Go Brøndby!!!

Manchester United on the way out?

It has been a very bad season so far for Manchester United. They have been unable to keep pace with the top in the Premier League, they have also had problems with the performance of their talented players, and some have been tarnished by scandals on and off the pitch (for instance the recent dismissal of Roy Keane, or Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo).

Tonight ManU's problems have become even more critical. Their performance on the Champions League has been meagre, and after today's match against Villarreal, they will be forced to get points in a very difficult match against Benfica in Lisbon, if they want to stay in the tournament.

Manchester has 6 points on 3rd spot of the Champions League group D, the same as Lille. Manchester must win against Benfica to be certain to qualify to the next round. A tie will not be enough in case Villarreal does not win against Lille. So all the pressure is on Manchester.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Real Madrid handled by Giants

Yesterday I watched "football". That is, not the "usual", but the American version. At a good barbecue, I was invited to watch American College football, the classic Ohio State against Michigan. I was happy to see Ohio win an exciting match. At the same time however, I was well aware of the clash going on in Spain. And as would be proper, I was getting periodic updates in my mobile.

Real Madrid against Barcelona is always a game that carries history with it beyond the football pitch. On top of that, both teams have always been at the top of Europe, and attract the best players in the World.

Last night's match in Santiago Barnabeu in Madrid was awaited as every year. But as seldomly before, Barcelona overran Real Madrid. Players such as Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Zidane Raul, seemed only like average players compared to the super display by Lionel Messi, Deco, Eto'o and in particular Ronaldinho. The Brazilian was simply spectacular. He was clapped off the pitch by Real Madrid's fans, something that has only happened before to Diego Maradona.

It is not often I have good things to say about Real Madrid fans. But their display of fairness last night shows that they are fans who foremost are appreciative of great football. As all who love great football, they had to surrender to Barcelona's display last night.

Real Madrid were truly given a football lesson to remember.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Turkish shame

Turkey was a great footballing nation in the Japan/Corea World Cup in 2002, when they managed to win bronze.

This time around, they will not be missed. In their last play-off match against the Swiss in Istambul, they won an otherwise exciting match 4-2. However, after losing 2-0 in the first match, they were out. This led to an massive violent outburst from the whole crowd of assembled Turks, from fans, police, to the Turkish players themselves. Swiss players were attacked and abused, and could not leave the stadium. Many have received serious injuries. I have seen some of the pictures, and I must admit that this is a deplorable show from the Turks. They are not worth having in the World Cup, let alone let participate in tournaments in the near future. This was a complete disregard of sportmanship, of honour and of normal human decency.

This is certainly a country that will not be missed in Germany next summer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Congratulations to Australia, but...

I am a fan of World Cup history. I love when history traditions largely continue - clashes between former foes, and the games of present and former football giants. I even find this much more important in these times, when the quality of many games in the World Cup's are mediocre to say the least - when the really high quality football is played in the top European and South American leagues.

Because of this, I believe there are some teams who simply belong in the World Cup: Brazil, Germany, England, Italy, Argentina, France, Spain... One of the teams belonging to this exclusive group missed their qualification for the 2006 World Cup today: Uruguay lost on penalty kicks in Sydney to Australia, who will be playing their first World Cup since 1974 (in Germany as well).

The Uruguayans have not always been the most entertaining team in the world. Nevertheless, this little country of 3 million is a giant when it comes to football: World Champions in 1930 and 1950, 10 times participants, and mass producer of great players. The last thing is even valid today, and players such as Alvaro Recoba, Marcelo Zalayeta, Diego Forlán, Darío Rodriguez, Marcelo Sosa and Pablo García will all be missed next summer.

In the end however, it is of course the better team who wins. Australia was better after an intense fight over two matches. They deserve to be in Germany - and are probably the more delighted after the arrogance displayed by the Uruguyan coach Fossati before the match. He should be ashamed of representing such a great football nation.

In any case, a Football Giant will be missed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Black Stars on the way!

Ghana has started its World Cup and African Nations Cup (in January) preparations with a friendly match against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh last night. Without their stars Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah, but with a returning Roma defender Samuel Kuffour, Ghana managed to pull a 1-3 victory against the Saudi's (who will also be playing in Germany next summer). The goals were scored by Italian-based strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Modena) scored two, and one was scored by Sulley Muntari (Udinese).

I have before said Ghana will be hard to defeat next year. And this shows that preparations are well underway. Next year might indeed be Ghana's year!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Argentina against England

[Foto: flag] [Foto: flag2] This evening in Geneva, Argentina and England will be playing a friendly match.
These teams have a history of football rivalry that goes back to number of great World Cup encounters. One of the most memorable matches was the 1986 World Cup Quartefinal clash, where Argentina own 2-1, on a Diego Armando Maradona's hand and his magic. Last time they played was in the first round of the 2002 World Cup, where England won 1-0 on a penalty goal by David Beckham. Another great match was the 1998 World Cup encounter, which Argentina won on penalty kicks after 2-2.
I do not believe we can expect a clash at these levels tonight. But for both teams, there is a high degree of honour involved, so the match is bound to be entertaining.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chelsea lost to Manchester United

After being undefeatable for long, Chelsea has now lost twice in a row. Last week in the Champions League against Betis, and now they have suffered their first defeat in the Premier League.

In a well-fought match, Manchester United won 1-0 at Old Trafford, on a goal by the young Darren Fletcher. Manchester United has not been having a very good season so far, but this victory against the defending English champions comes at the right time, and may lead them on the right direction for the rest of the season. However, this is not all: Manchester has many internal problems, and no one victory will be enough to overcome these.

But congratulations to all United fans!

Back on planet Earth...

A couple of weeks ago I believed I could do anything. I was full of confidence - King of the Universe! Valencia had defeated Real Madrid in the Santiago Barnabeu in Madrid. The old Valencia was back, heading towards a new glorious season.
But since then, things have only gone downhill, and I am back to planet Earth. Valencia has not won since, and tonight they lost 1-0 to the local arch-rivals from Villarreal (an excellent football team, Villarreal is a small village outside Castellón, north of Valencia), and are heading downwards on the table. Maybe it was all too good to be true.
In the meantime, surpise team Osasuna is leading the Spanish league.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Champions League 2005-06: Matchday 4

Due to travelling, I missed the Champions League action this week. In spite of it, I have a summary of the results:

An important victory for Schalke, who is now on second spot. But this group E is very close, and with two games left, all teams have a shot at the next round.

A good victory for the Dutch. They are now on first spot in group E with 7 points, but only two ponts ahead of Milan and Schalke.

Lyon continues cruising through the champions league. With Arsenal, they are the only team with maximum points. Juninho is unstopable!

Real Madrid has gotten its act together. With this victory, they are sure of at least a second spot in group F after Lyon.

Liverpool is on first spot with 10 points. Chelsea is right behind with 7.

Betis managed to do what nobody has for a long time – to defeat Chelsea. Betis is now with 6 points on third spot, one point after Chelsea. But the Sevillians will have to fight well to get the second spot in group G.

  • Artmedia Bratislava-Glasgow Rangers 2-2
    Goals: Borbely, Kozak; Prso, Thompson

Artmedia and Rangers are now both on second spot with 5 points and a 5-5 score. They will have to fight for the second spot with FC Porto, two points behind both teams.

Porto defeated Inter in Porto, but other defeats, with this one, seems to leave them trailing in group H. They will have a hard time staying in the tournament.

Juventus won with same score as Bayern had in Munich. Both teams are on top of group A with 9 points.

Two victories againt Vienna will not be enough to keep Brugge in the tournament, trailing Juventus and Bayern Munich by three points.

  • Thun-Ajax Amsterdam 2-4
    Goals: Lustrinello, Pimenta; Sneijder, Anastasiou, de Jong, Boukhari

Thun was close to get a 2-2, but two late goals by Ajax gave them the 2-4 victory. Ajax is firmly on second spot of group B.

Arsenal continues showing strength in the Champions League. They will surely win their group B, but it will be interesting to see them against stronger teams in the next round.

In the Spanish league, Barcelona also won 5-0 last weekend. Seems the dangerous Barcelona attack has found its rhythm, and they can get very far in the tournament.

An important victory for the Germans. Werder Bremen, Udinese and Panathinaikos all have four points behind Barcelona, so the fight for second spot will be deadly.

This group D is very close. With this victory, Villarreal jumped to first spot with 6 points, and the meager score of 2-1. Benfica is the most scoring team in the group with 3 goals, but is last, albeit with 4 points.

Manchester continues playing poorly indeed, and is fighting hard to stay in the tournament. They are now on third spot with 5 points, same as Lille, which is on second.

I will surely not miss the next round!