Friday, December 31, 2010

Top-10 teams of the year 2010

A list of what I consider the best teams of 2010:

10) Fulham: There are other teams in England than the usual big ones, and Fulham was a huge surprise in 2010 as they made it to the UEFA Europa League final. In spite of losing to Atlético Madrid, their performance deserves all the credit it can get!
9) FC Copenhagen:
I admit that as Brøndby fan this hurts, but their overwhelming success in the Danish league and the Champions League obliges me to include them here.
8) SC Internacional: the Brazilian side won the Brazilian championship and the Copa Libertadores.
7) Ghana: The Ghanaians proved they are the best team in Africa, in spite of losing the Africa's Cup of Nations final to Egypt (who I nevertheless don't include for their World Cup qualification circus) with a young team, that later in the year, in the World Cup, became the flag-bearer for Africa. They had the best fans and a splendid team that did not play as naive as in 2006, but gave us one of the greatest dramas of the World Cup in the quarterfinal against Uruguay!
6) TP Mazembe: the Congolese side are undoubtfully the best team in Africa. Winner of the CAF Champions League, they came to the world's attention as they defeated SC Internacional in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup, to become the first African side to make it to the final!
5) Uruguay: One of the greatest footballing nations in the world upset many by its powerful return to the world stage, making it to the semifinals in South Africa, and becoming the best South American side.
4) FC Barcelona: "Only" won the Spanish League in 2010, but they are still the most entertaining and best team in the world, something they have shown in particular in the second half of 2010, notably their incredible 5-0 victory against the arch-rivals of Real Madrid. They are again the team to watch in 2011.
3) Bayern Munich: Has had a poor fall in 2010 in the Bundesliga, but in the first half of the year won the "Double", and also made it to the UEFA Champions League final where they lost to Inter Milan.
2) Inter Milan: Winner of the "treble" in 2010 under coach José Mourinho. In December they took the title as World Champions, surely making the Italians the most winning side of 2010. However, a poor fall season in the Italian league and unconvincing Champions Lague, including a firing of coach Rafa Benitez, does not put them on the top of the list.
1) Spain: Spain had until 2010 been the best nation in the world never to win a World Cup. In spite of not scoring many goals (and some poor performances later in the year against Portugal and Argentina), they were undoubtfully the best side, and deserved winners of the world title.

It was not an easy list this year! There are some teams that nearly entered the list: Atlético Madrid, Egypt, Netherlands, Germany, Manchester City, Guadalajara and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Best and worst of the 2010 football year

It is time for a review of football-year 2010, and I will start by my personal top-10 of best and worst football things this years.
Saving the good for last, here comes the worst (a list that has, fortunately, been a bit difficult to make!):

10. Paraguay not becoming World Champions, to be summarized in one name: Larissa Riquelme...
9. Not having played football once during the year.
8. Time difference: Living in Venezuela has made it difficult to watch many mid-week matches, as they are in working hours.
7. FC Copenhagen doing so well; as a Brøndby fan I am green of jealousy! But of course, it is impressive!
6. Ghana's defeat in penalty kicks to Uruguay: so close, and yet so far from being the first African team in a World Cup semifinal! An emotional roller-coaster of a match that I watched with hundreds of people in Brussels!
5. People who normally don't watch football, who suddenly become all too passionate during a World Cup.
4. Argentina's elimination from the World Cup, which was more painful as I had really hoped for the best for them under Maradona. I do admit though, that his choice of tactics against Germany was poor.
3. FIFA and refereeing: although some small changes have been made, there is still too much conservatism and lack of openness in making refereeing better. In the World Cup, although in general good, some lousy decisions still haunt all fans.
2. The Octopus
1. Brøndby: not only that they are generally doing bad, but I was hugely disappointed for their loss to Sporting Lisbon.

And now, the best, a list much harder to limit!

10. BBC's World Football Phone in: the best football show ever.
9. Inter Milan's impressive victory of the triple. Although not a popular team, they had José Mourinho, whom I consider the world's greatest coach.
8. Germany: impressive in the World Cup with a diverse, young and entertaining side, and the Bundesliga has also improved to become one of the leagues in Europe with most excitement and most goals!
7. That Valencia CF are back in the Champions League, and have done well.
6. I have not been to many matches this year; a couple of Copa Libertadores matches in Caracas, but Benfica-Braga in Lisbon, was surely the best!
5. The way FC Barcelona have been playing in the second half of the year, notably their 5-0 victory against Real Madrid, which I watched in the office, was a truly impressive display of awesome football.
4. Spain as World Champions made me most happy for all my family and friends there!
3. The marvelous Black Stars and their performance in South Africa, and in particular their fans!
2. A wonderful World Cup in South Africa! South Africans were the best hosts ever!
1. Watching World Cup football in five different countries, with friends, family and drinking beer!

Merry Christmas to everyone!


FC Copenhagen has surely been one of the teams of the year: they upset everyone by playing excellent football in the CL, coming second in their group, only behind mighty Barcelona, and will now face Chelsea in the Last-16.
In the Danish League, no team has ever been so dominating as FC Copehagen is now: they are undefeated in the league, and as they go on winter-break, they are impressive 19 points ahead the second ranked OB. There is no doubt they will be champions, it is only a question of how many records they will beat.
So is all this good for the Danish league? It seems doubtful. It is not the Danish league that has become better; it is FC Copenhagen that has run away from everyone else!
While FC Copenhagen is not only well-managed, they are very rich compared to any other club in Denmark, and are sure to become more so. The other teams in the league are all pretty level: there are only 16 points between OB on second spot, and the bottom team AaB. Of the 12 teams, six or seven seem to be fighting to avoid relegation, while the remaining teams basically fight for the European spots, where one, given FC Copenhagen's success, may lead to another Danish CL spot. That would not be nice; as much as I would love to see my dear Brøndby have the opportunity, I only think they would be there to be humilliated. Bad for Brøndby, and bad for Danish football.
FC Copenhagen's success is admirable, but it is not great to see the Danish league become a mono-league.
Oh well, I live in Venezuela, and hardly follow it anyway...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Benitez out

Although Inter Milan just last week won the World Club Championship, it is perhaps not surprising that it was today when coach Rafael Benitez was fired after only six months. Benitez has been very critical of the Inter leadership, and as results have not been forthcoming (they are only 7th in Serie A and came second to Tottenham in their CL Group A), the firing of Benitez is perhaps not so surprising, in spite of the short time and many injuries on the Milan side.
Benitez is a great coach (A CL title, a UEFA Cup Title, a Spanish Championship) but he apparently has a controversial personality that has often led him to part ways, as in Valencia, Liverpool and now Inter. It will be interesting to see where he will be heading next.
More interesting will be to see who now takes over in Inter. The Brazilian Leonardo, with a history in AC Milan seems to be first choice. Whoever it ends up being, he will have a difficult task!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inter World Champions

Inter Milan has had a pretty bad season so far, but last night nevertheless the Italian team managed to win the FIFA Club World Cup, after defeating Congo's TP Mazembe 3-0 in the final in Abu Dhabi. The tournament, in its current format, looks like this:

2005Sao Paulo (Brazil)Liverpool (England)Saprissa (Thailand)

Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia)

2006Internacional (Brazil)FC Barcelona (Spain)Al Ahly (Egypt)

América (Mexico)

2007AC Milan (Italy)Boca Juniors (Argentina)Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan)

Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)

2008Manchester United (England)LDU Quito (Ecuador)Gamba Osaka (Japan)

Pachuca (Mexico)

2009FC Barcelona (Spain)Estudiantes (Argentina)Pohang Steelers (South Corea)

Atlante (Mexico)

2010Inter Milan (Italy)TP Mazembe (DR Congo)Internacional (Brazil)

Seongnam IlhwaChunma (South Corea

One important thing to note about the tournament this year is that for the first time ever it was not a final between Europe and South America: Internacional from Brazil lost in the semifinal to the outside-Africa unfancied TP Mazembe from DR Congo (a great team, as any follower of African football would know), who also became the first African team in the World Club Final. Although many people do not fancy this tournament, it remains a great achievement by the Congolese side, as well as a great achievement for Inter Milan!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Golden Boot

I must add my voice to the choir of critics of the chosen finalists for the 2010 Golden Boot: three Barcelona players, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi are the contenders for this year's title as the world's best player.
Barcelona are indeed a powerful team that plays the most entertaining football in the world, and these three players are indeed the spinal chord of the team. Add to this that Iniesta and Xavi are also the most important players of the world champions of Spain (with Iniesta playing a splendid World Cup, and scoring the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands), and it is obvious that these two players are obvious candidates for the title.
Lionel Messi is splendid to watch, and has had a great fall season with Barcelona. But he was almost pathetic in the World Cup in an Argentinean side that started well but disappointed enormously when it counted. So the inclusion of Messi is odd, considering the one player that should have been among the finalists: Wesley Snejder. The Dutch player was splendid for Inter and in 2010 won the Italian championship, the cup, as well as the Champions League (defeating Barcelona on the way). At the World Cup Snejder was also splendid; the best player on a Dutch side that made it all the way to the World Cup final.
Perhaps it is because Inter and the Netherlands have not played such entertaining football as Barcelona, and Snejder is not such a Playstation-player as Messi, but it just shows the entire strangeness of having a title as "world best player" in a sport that is about a team, and less so about an individual player.
I don't know whether Snejder is "better" than Messi, but I think he surely deserves to be among the finalists.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Another one!

Manchester United-Valencia is for personal reasons one of the most classic matches in CL football, for the simple fact that I support Valencia, and I have seen them play the United times many times, including a match in 2000 in Valencia, where I saw them draw 0-0, and both were through, and I then got drunk with a bunch of United fans.
Today, many years later, I was in Caracas, watching them in a bar, as they were playing another "irrelevant" match, fighting for 1st and 2nd place in the group. Valencia needed a victory, and admirably really went for the victory in a match that is probably the most entertaining between the two sides.
1-1 is a fair result of a match that puts Manchester in the first spot of the group, while Valencia can look forward to an interesting (and very difficult) draw.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022

Today the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were selected. It was widely expected that the winner of the 2018 bid would be in Europe, where England, Spain/Portugal and Russia were contesting. Following FIFA president Sepp Blatter's wish to spread the beautiful game further in new countries and regions (which admittedly gave us an excellent cup in South Africa), the choice of Russia for 2018 was not strange, and it will surely be interesting to see the World Cup there, amid strong anti-foreign feelings there.
I really do wonder whether Russia is able or even willing to welcome the world to one of the greatest events that exist.
Qatar will be even more interesting. The small Middle Eastern nation has never participated in a world cup, but invested enormous resources in their bid, and will surely have to invest even more in stadiums and infrastructure for their hosting in 12 years, but even more in actually having a competitive team! In any case, situated between Europe, Africa and Asia, good links and climate, it is surely to be one of the most memorable world cups of the 21st century, and surely already augur a new era in the spread of football around the world.