Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chilean fingers and a disgusting tournament

Chile will do anything to win the Copa America. And it is disgusting. Literally. In their quarterfinal against a hard-fighting Uruguay side they could have won by being the best team (they were), but instead, Chile will be remembered by Gonzalo Jara's finger in Edinson Cavani's ass (see a picture of it here).
A clear sexual assault if you ask me, no less disgusting than Luis Suarez bite, and if Edinson Cavani reacted, it was only the natural reaction of a man being assaulted in the most vile way.
This tournament is so sad for South American football: at a time when much of South America football is mired in accusations about corruption, one would expect that the football players would act any better.
But no. South American footballers seem only to be an extension of people that take pride in winning dirty, selfishness, provocations, drinking and driving, sexual misconduct, acting....
On top of this, matches have in general been of poor quality, hard fought, dramatic, but with nothing that can excite a real football fan.

I would urge everyone to watch the Women's World Cup instead; not because these women are better than men (they are), but because you will not see any men playing in the Copa America.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The World Cup Round of 16

Some very exciting Group stages at the Women's World Cup have ended. On the 20th June the knockout matches will start, with eight very exciting fixtures:
  • China-Cameroun: The only African side left against a Chinese side that will be looking to get far after doing well in the first round.
  • Germany-Sweden: Two of the best sides in Europe and the world. Germany, European champions, are favourites to win the title, while Sweden were considered title outsiders, but struggled to get past the first group behind USA and Australia. Germany scored 15 goals in the first round, and has the top scorer, Anja Mittag.
  • Brazil-Australia: The South Americans took three victories in the first round, and are surely favourites against an Australian side that should not be underestimated, ending second in "the group of death"
  • France-South Corea: France went on to win a difficult group after defeating England and Mexico, and will be facing South Corea, who struggled to get second spot behind Brazil in their opening group.
  • Canada-Switzerland: the Canadian hosts will be huge favourites against a Swiss side that is in the last-16 despite losing twice in the first round.
  • Norway-England: Norway, second ranked in Europe, will be facing an English side that is looking to get success in a World Cup for the first time.
  • USA-Colombia: the defending Olympic champions and favourites will be facing a Colombian side that surprised everybody in the first round, but who are unlikely to keep surprising.
  • Japan-Netherlands: The defending World Champions took three victories in the first round, and are looking to defend their title against a talented Dutch side.
Matches have been good, although some teams are still far below in quality (Ecuador, Ivory Coast). But this is much more refreshing football than the commercialism and bad spirit of the men's World Cup. Matches are examples of fair play and good spirit, something that does not exist in the men's side any more (there are virtually no gentlemen left in modern men's game).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Colombian-Brazilian drama

Colombia-Brazil in the Copa America was bound to be a drama: the two sides hate one another after the 2014 World Cup Quarterfinal when Neymar was injured and Brazil won 2-1. Colombia got some revenge now, winning 1-0 and exposing that Brazil are a team of mediocre players with one superstar, Neymar. While Colombia are still not looking convincing after their opening loss to Venezuela, Brazil could lose to a Venezuelan side that were much better than both Colombia and Brazil in their opening match.
And note: it will be a Brazil without Neymar after his red card for kicking the ball...
Neymar is a great player, but he is not world class. He still dives too much and tends more to complain when things are against him. Things were surely against him last night: a terrible referee, Colombian provocations, missed chances and a bunch of teammates who are hardly at his level. And that frustration eventually exploded and may ultimately end up hurting Brazil...
Another player with a red card was Colombian Carlos Bacca, who viciously attacked Neymar after the Brazilian's headbutt. He will miss Colombia's last match against Peru. No mayor loss, although Colombia continues to believe in a Radamel Falcao who has absolutely contributed nothing to Colombia.
Brazil and Colombia now have a victory and defeat each before continuing to the last match of the group. However, after seeing them in their first two matches, it is all but impossible to sympathise with either side of violent rich prima donnas.

Monday, June 15, 2015

No bad teams in Copa America

The reason the Copa America is one of the best national team tournaments in the world is that all teams compete at a very high level. There are no minnows in the Copa America despite the historical dominance by Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina.
The current tournament is no exception, as it has already had "surprises". Argentina were up 2-0 but only managed to get 2-2 against ever efficient Paraguay. In the Group where Brazil and Colombia have been seen as certain favourites, Colombia opened by a surprising 0-1 defeat to Venezuela. The Colombian superstars (James, very poor Falcao and Cuadrado, Carlos Bacca, Ospina....) were surely thinking more of their own millions than of the fact that Venezuela continues to be an extremely well-organized and committed side, deadly efficient in counter-attack and not allowing the opponents many chances.
Colombia are not better than Venezuela, that is for sure.
In the meantime Brazil had to struggle against a quite impressive Peruvian side, who had decided that the best way to play Brazil was to attack high. This gave a quite entertaining match, where Brazil's 10 Dunga clones needed the brilliance of the non-Dunga clone Neymar to make an incredible pass to set up Douglas Costa for an incredible goal.
Sad for Peru, but they can take away the fact that they are not in Chile to be easily beaten, and they surely have chances against Venezuela, and not least Colombia!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

There could be no other champion

FC Barcelona could be the only champion; they were the the best team; they were the team with the extraordinary strikers; they are the team with Messi; they are the only right champion.
I only fee sorry for the great Gianlucca Buffon and Andrea Pirlo. Both deserved a title, but they are both great footballers who know that when you are up against the best, the best deserve it more.
Congratulations to a Barcelona team that I find better than the Guardiola-Barca. 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The two great football events today

Today is, arguably, one of the greatest football days of 2015 with two of the greatest football events of the year taking place, both equally immense: the 2015 Champions League Final and the Opening of the Women's World Cup in Canada.
In Berlin, Juventus and Barcelona will face one another in a highly expected final. Barcelona are surely favourites against a Juventus side that will not be difficult to beat: nobody expected them to defeat Real Madrid in the semifinal, and coach Masimillano Allegri is a more astute coach than Luis Enrique. But astute may not be enough to stop Lionel Messi's magic. No matter what, it is a highly expected final.
Women's football is great. Anyone who thinks differently is a narrow-minded twit who has not been following the fantastic advances over the last decade. And this World Cup in Canada is set to be one of the best ever; I would not be surprised if it was better than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in terms of quality. The opening match is between the hosts from Canada and China. And over the next months there will be fantastic matches to watch with great teams, such as Japan, USA, Sweden, Nigeria, and many others!!!!
Don't miss football today!

The worrying part about FIFA corruption

Every football fan in the World has suspected (if not outright known) that there was something fishy in FIFA: they organize tournaments that turn out to be great because of the fans and the players, but they obviously care little about fans and players, which is why fans and players care little about FIFA. Surely it is annoying that they make tons of money, but more annoying is when they make idiotic interventions in the game itself, such as inconsistent approaches to fair play, give prizes on the random rather than the futbolistic qualities, and consideration of money rather than what is best for players and fans (and this is where the World Cup in June in Qatar was outright stupid, and just as stupid, a World Cup in November. So no matter how you turn it the World Cup in Qatar is stupid).
Of course, if FIFA officials have embezzled money they should face justice, just like any other criminal. But as a football fan this is not the major problem, nor does this majorly affect the game. If it did, that would be the worrying part. The reports of FIFA paying off the Irish Football Federation for them not to complain of France's controversial qualification for the 2010 World Cup, is incredibly worrying.
Let us remember what happened: in the last play-off match Ireland was facing France. 10 minutes before the end of the match Thierry Henry scored the winning goal for France, in a situation where he had clearly handled the ball. The goal was accepted, and France went to the World Cup. Ireland would have had all reasons in the world to complain, but FIFA paid them not to.
Is it that FIFA did not want an investigation that would show that maybe there was an agreement that France should qualify? That the referee knew he had to ignore a handball? That some French players had been informed they could get away with things?
There is no doubt that in terms of money France was a more attractive team than Ireland. So did these FIFA people who rule football actually also decide the results...? That is what has me really worried about the latest allegation.
In the book "The Fix", Declan Hill documents worrying match fixing tendencies, possibly even at World Cup level. It is so worrying we, as football fans, may choose to ignore it. The possibility that FIFA manipulates football results is also one of those we will prefer to ignore: it is ok if they steal all the money, but manipulating results would be unacceptable.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Benitez to Madrid

Rafa Benitez has been confirmed as the new coach of Real Madrid after the Spanish giants decided to get rid of Carlo Ancelotti, unsurprisingly after he had won nothing this season.
If anything is unsurprising about Benitez' appointment is that it had not happened before. Rafa Benitez seems to have been aiming at this job ever since he started as a youth coach in Real Madrid and Castilla (a satellite club for Real Madrid): to be Senior coach of Real Madrid seemed to be in the cards, but he first had to build up his career. After some initial tries in Valladolid and Tenerife, it was at Valencia where Benitez first found success; he joined the team in 2001 and until he left in 2004 he brought two Spanish championships and one Europa League title. It was surely the best years of Valencia, who let Benitez go for the hapless Claudio Ranieri....
But that is another story.
Benitez went on to Liverpool whom he took to one Champions League title, one final and one FA Cup, but despite this, never to the craved Premier League title, and he left in 2011.
After a short unsuccesful stint at Inter Milan, Benitez went on to become "interim" coach of Chelsea, whom he took to a Europa League title, but never fulfilled the high expectations of the moneymen in London, and in 2013 he went on a two-year stint to Napoli, whom he took to a Cup title and gave them a somewhat decent return to Europe.
And now he has resigned to take the post he probably has been longing for: Real Madrid coach. It will be interesting, because he knows Real Madrid and is a very demanding coach. But at the same time he will be under the same pressure as any other Real Madrid coaches: titles or leave.