Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best teams of 2011

Here is my (personal) list of the best football teams of the year 2011:
10) Borussia Dortmund: The Germans won the 2010-11 Bundesliga title playing entertaining football and a very young team. They have nevertheless disappointed in the fall.
9) Manchester City: Proof that money can buy a team, they have nevertheless also worked hard under Roberto Mancini to become a new power in English football. They won the FA Cup and won a resounding 6-1 against their arch-rivals of Manchester United in the Premier League.
8) AC Milan: The Italian giants won the Serie A for the first time in seven years, and seem stronger than they have seemed for many years!
7) Real Madrid: Real Madrid's succes is apparently only measured against their arch-rivals of FC Barcelona. This year saw some crucial matches between these two sides, of which Real Madrid only managed to take the Spanish Cup title. Still, in the second half of the year the team under José Mourinho (whom I still consider the best coach in the world) seems only to have been getting better, although still not enough to beat the Catalonians.
6) FC Porto: The Portuguese side was awesome in the Portuguese league to take the title, and only sealed their strength by taking the UEFA Europa League title as well. In the second half they have looked weaker after selling out some stars, and were eliminated from the Champions League, but are still a strong team.
5) Universidad de Chile: The Chilean side won the Chilean torneo apertura playing very entertaining football under coach Jorge Sampaoli. In the fall, they were extraordinary in taking their first international title, the Copa Sudamericana, playing attacking football that surprised their opponents!
4) Venezuela: Venezuela have always been the footballing midgets of South America, but have this year, under coach César Farias grown to be a team to be reckoned with. In this year´s Copa América they were very unlucky not to make it to the final, and have in the fall taken the first steps to a World Cup by, among others, defeating Argentina for the first time in their history.
3) Santos: The Brazilian side won this years' Copa Libertadores title in a convincing way, and playing positive football they are raising the flag for Brazilian football in an otherwise meager year. They lost the World Club Cup final to FC Barcelona, but that does not take away their extraordinary year.
2) Uruguay: Forget Brazil and Argentina! There is no doubt that Uruguay is the best side in South America! They showed that their 4th place in the 2010 World Cup was no coincidence by taking the Copa América title in a convincing way on Argentina soil, and are clearly ahead in the World Cup qualifiers after some resounding victories!
1) FC Barcelona: No matter what you think about them, FC Barcelona plays awesome football, and has continued so this year, taking the Champions League title after a great victory against Manchester United and taking the Spanish League title. In spite of the pressure from Real Madrid, they crushed them when everyone thought Real Madrid had a chance, and took the World Club Championship after crushing Santos in the final.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Barcelona World Champion

Perhaps it was only a formality that Barcelona should officially proclaim itself the best team in the world in 2012 after their resounding victory against Real Madrid recently. But surely, their victory in the FIFA Club World Championship against Brazilian Santos was no less resounding. The final had been looked forward to, since Santos is also a club that plays entertaining attacking football and has some outstanding players. However, as Barcelona also did in this years' Champions League final, Barcelona seems to be awesome when against teams that are hailed as possible threats to their current footballing hegemony. There was never doubt as to the best team, and Barcelona won 4-0, with another extraordinary match by Lionel Messi, who will probably win the best footballer award of 2012 thanks to all his goals and antics at Barcelona.
Barcelona are surely the best team of 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life and football

In life there are many things you cannot choose: you cannot choose your parents, where you are born, even whom you love is a difficult one: against all logic, a man may fall madly in love with some third-rate, cranky, controlling, selfish, unfaithful and evil bitch with a minority complex.
Football is most often a mere reflection of life itself, where a man walks from happiness to sadness, from expectations to disappointments, and as in life itself, you most often do not choose whom you love: you may end up supporting a third rate, violent, defensive, half-corrupt, arrogant piece of shit team that would make the entire world a favour by playing curling.
But they are still whom you love, against all logic. It is simply proof that football is not about logic, but about love.
I am not trying to defend the fact that all teams I support continue without winning shit, and making me frustrated more often than they make me happy. I am trying to understand why I reflect all lack of success in my life in general, against the backdrop of my love-hate relationship to groups of guys who kick a ball around for a living. Hey, or perhaps it is the other way around? A strange inverse law of attraction? Perhaps a loser like me is simply just attracted to a bunch of worthless losing sides…?

But as in life, hope remains: I am still hoping that one day, maybe one single day, I can walk proudly down the street, with my head raised and my team's shirt on, knowing that on that very day, I was victorious.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Champions League play-off draw

The draw for the Champions League 2011-12 1/16th play-off took place today with the following pairings:
  • AC Milan-Arsenal
  • Napoli-Chelsea
  • CSKA Moscow-Real Madrid
  • Apoel Nicosia-Olympique Lyon
  • Basel-Bayern Munich
  • Benfica-Zenit St. Petersburg
  • FC Barcelona-Bayer Leverkusen
  • Olympique Marseille-Inter Milan
Some very interesting matches indeed! In particular the big matches between English and Italian sides, as well as Marseilles' clash with Inter Milan, and if Basel can continue its surprises against Bayern Munich!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Barcelona is still the best

Before tonight's classic match in the Spanish League Real Madrid had every reason to be optimistic; they were leading the Spanish league, had won their last 15 matches (a record only achieved by Real Madrids' legendary side from the 1960s), and were pumping in goals. They were obviously full of confidence to take a greater lead ahead of their archrivals at home in Madrid.
On the other hand, FC Barcelona was looking to some as a team losing the air of its balloon; only Messi seemed able to score goals, while their defense was looking more feeble.
Many were predicting the decline of Barcelona and the rise of a new Real Madrid side tonight. But everything was put to rest as Barcelona proved that they continue to be the best side in the world.
Real Madrid started well by taking the lead after only 20 second after an awful mistake by Victor Valdes let Karim Benzema score. And they seemed to press on, taking the spaces away and dominating the midfield. But as often happens, it is virtually impossible physically to pressure Barcelona like that, and as the first half progressed, Barcelona started to bite themselves into the match, and Alexis Sanchez scored an excellent equalizer on a Lionel Messi creation.
After this, Barcelona dominated, and José Mourinho seemed unable to find a tactical solution to their dominance. When Barcelona went ahead 1-2 in the second half it was a bit of a lucky punch by Xavi, but seen overall, it was well-deserved. After this, there was only one team on the pitch as Barcelona dominated completely, and the 1-3 victory was sealed by Cesc Fábregas.

It was a great match, seeing Barcelona take out one of the best teams in the world currently. While Real Madrid is still on the lead in Spain, one must wait to next years' "clásico" in Barcelona, where the league will be decided. Until then, both teams will probably wander from victory to victory in a second-rate league which is decided in the two "clásicos".
And first set went to Barcelona.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The surprises

The last round of matches of the group stages of the 2011-12 Champions League had a couple of surprises.
Firstly, Manchester United was elminated for the first time in the group stages of the tournament since the 2005-06 season. More surprising than this fact is nevertheless that it happened against the underestimated FC Basel in the last match of the tournament, where the English side needed only a tie to follow Benfica to the next round. However, the Swiss side was much more efficient, when they went ahead 1-0 early in the match they played a controlled defensive that kept United away for most of the match. Add a bit of luck and a late strike, and Basel managed to win 2-1 to complete Manchester United's sensational exit. In group A, Manchester City was also, less surprisingly, eliminated in spite of their win against Bayern Munich, so there will be no more CL football in Manchester this season.
Another surprise was that Olympique Lyon managed to follow Real Madrid to the next round in group D, after they needed to win with six goals away to Dynamo Zagreb to overtake Ajax Amsterdam (who losing to Real Madrid, could have solved it for themselves). Lyon won 1-7 in Zagreb, but the odd thing is how it happened: One man down, Zagreb nevertheless took the lead, only to see the French equalize before halftime on a gross defensive mistake. In the second half the home side fell mysteriously apart when Lyon scored six goals to take the ticket to the next round. French authorities are now looking into the match for the suspision of it being fixed, a thought that I think must have crossed many football fans' mind, including my own. Sadly, the fixing of matches at this level is not unheard of... It involving French sides is not unheard of neither.
That said, it may be wholly fair, and in that sense, one must congratulate Lyon, but the surprise simply looks too suspicious not to be looked into. I hope it was not fixed though.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The usual story

Every year, around these dates, which incidentally includes my birthday, the Champions League is entering the last round of the group stages. And often, around my birthday, my favorite team of Valencia is eliminated from the Champions League.
Yesterday was no exception; leading up to the match much of the talk had been about the pressure on Chelsea. I must admit, that I never saw it that way. Chelsea were surely favorites against a Spanish side that has not been convincing in the tournament until last rounds trashing of Genk. And my bad feeling about the match were totally confirmed, as Valencia had no chance against Chelsea in the 0-3 defeat, where Didier Drogba scored two of the goals, and former Valencia star, Juan Mata, played a great match against his former teammates.
The difference between the two sides is also an expression of the different levels of the Spanish and English leagues: Number four in the Premier League is far better than number three in La Liga, where the two top teams are really also the only competitive sides in the Champions League.
Another birthday present from Valencia...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


One of the greatest midfielders of all time, Socrates, has passed away at the age of 57.
In 1982, he captained the Brazilian side at the World Cup in Spain. With him as a leader, the team is surely the best side never to have won a World Cup, after they were defeated by Italy in one of the most legendary matches in World Cup history.
A Brazilian triumph in the World Cup always eluded him (he also participated in the 1986 World Cup where Brazil was eliminated by France in the quarterfinal).
In his club career, his main achievements were in Corinthians, but he also played for Botafogo, Fiorentina, Flamengo and Santos.

Besides his extraordinary skills and vision in the football pitch, Socrates was an extremely charismatic person. He is perhaps the player that best symbolized football in the1980s . His tall, skinny, rugged appearance made him stand out in the crowd, he was educated as a doctor, columnist, writer, and he had strong opinions about politics, where he organized protests against a former Brazilian military government.
Socrates will be missed, but he will always remain a footballing legend. RIP.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Euro 2012 Groups

The groups are as follows:

Group A:
  • Poland
  • Greece
  • Czech Republic
  • Russia

Not the most scary group for the Polish hosts, but one should also look out for the Russians.

Group B:

  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Portugal

Surely the group of death! Germany and Netherlands nevertheless remain favorites to win the group and the tournament, while Denmark and Portugal will be looking to make a surprise.

Group C:

  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Croatia
  • Ireland

The last two world champions are to face one another in a group where everyone will support Ireland, and Croatia must not be underestimated!

Group D:

  • Ukraine
  • France
  • England
  • Sweden

Not an easy group for the Ukrainians, where England are surely favorites, but everyone will be looking forward to England-France!

The tournament starts on June 8th with Poland facing Greece!