Thursday, April 20, 2017

Forca Juve

I was delighted, sitting in Fuzion, in Monrovia, watching a great Juventus side tie 0-0 in Barcelona to make it to the CL semifinals. As the match wore on one supported Juve more against a Barca side that just seems that they are entitled to win and when things are against them they cannot handle it, least of all Neymar.
There is a difference between a great fighter and a bad loser, and Neymar is not the former.
But with this we have four teams in the semifinals, two Spanish, one French and one Italian: Ream Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Monaco and Juventus.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Feeling sorry for mighty Bayern

It is not often one feels sorry for one of the biggest teams in Europe, but tonight I felt sorry for Bayern Munich as they were eliminated from the Champions League by Real Madrid.
Don't get me wrong: despite my dislike for Real Madrid they are a truly great side, but that is why such a victory as that tonight leaves a sour taste in ones mouth.
Bayern Munich played well; much better than in their hapless first match at home, and when they went ahead 0-1 on a penalty by Lewandowski, one had the feeling that they could win the match.
There are a lot of bad referees out there, but fortunately, they are seldom defining for who wins the match (despite what many unnamed managers in England may say...), but tonight there can be no doubt that the refereeing was defining for the result. First Arturo Vidal's non-existant second yellow card (and this is not to say that he was moving close to second yellow), when Casemiro should have had a red card at least as much, and the secondly Cristiano Ronaldo's equalizing 2-2 goal, which was so clearly off side that one either has to question the skills, eyesight or worse of the linesman.
In the end the Germans fell apart and lost 4-2, but the match had been decided at the 2-2 goal and the red card already.

Real Madrid, a great team, are in the semifinal to defend their title, followed by their local rivals Atletico Madrid, who had to fight hard to defeat a Leicester side who will not be in the Champions League again in the foreseeable future, if ever.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Argentina without Messi

South American World Cup qualifiers continue to be the most nerve-wrecking and closely fought contest in the world: every team can defeat anyone, and as the end nears seven out of ten teams can qualify, with one more outsider. Only Brazil, who started weakly but has risen over the last year, seem to be certain of going to Russia after their recent away victory in Montevideo against Uruguay, who remain in second spot.
But Argentina tonight lost away 2-0 to Bolivia, and will struggle to keep their closest competitors from Chile, Colombia and Ecuador away. Even Paraguay could beat them to the World Cup spot, and Argentina could risk a play-off match, or worse, not qualify!
Except for fans of Argentina (including myself) the worst consequence of Argentina not qualifying would likely be a World Cup without Lionel Messi. Let us face it; besides Messi, and perhaps DiMaria (and not counting an ageing and 'wasted-in-Barcelona' Mascherano), Argentina only has mediocre players who are not up to the task without Messi. Tonight's defeat to Bolivia was a case in point: after having defeated the South American champions of Chile last week (with Messi scoring the winning goal) Messi stupidly insulted the referee and got himself a four-match suspension. Argentina without Messi was a mediocre side unable to break the home side in the altitude of La Paz. With only four matches left, Messi will be available for only one. And they are not easy matches: Uruguay away, and Venezuela and Peru at home. Argentina's best hope seems to be that the other teams take points from one another and that they do not lose too many points in these coming three matches.
It is not looking good for a World Cup with Argentina and Messi!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The two teams nobody wanted to face

Atletico Madrid and Leicester were arguably the two teams everyone wanted to avoid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Atletico Madrid are a passionate, skilled and disciplined side that has proven to have one of the best defenses in the world combined with an unforgiving attacking force. Leicester on the other hand, seem to be a team that is set to continue surprising; the best team in the world when underestimated.
But all teams avoided them as both of these sides will be facing one another in the quarterfinals. An interesting anecdote is that two of the previous three times Leicester was in Europe, they were eliminated by Atletico Madrid (1961 and 1997). So this may be the time of redemption for Leicester.

The quarterfinals are as follows:
  • Atletico Madrid-Leicester
  • Borussia Dortmund-Monaco
  • Juventus-FC Barcelona
  • Bayern Munich-Real Madrid
All will be incredible matches. Juventus-Barcelona a repeat of the 2015 final. Dortmund-Monaco two teams playing attacking football. Bayern Munich-Real Madrid will see two of the best teams ever having played the tournament.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Leicester among the eight best in Europe

Surely Leicester are having a bad season in the Premier League, where rather than defending their title, they are almost fighting to avoid relegation. This is what led to a very unlikeable firing of Claudio Ranieri as manager, but frankly, since the charming Italian's exit, things seem to have improved.  I was never a fan of Mr. Ranieri, but he did achieve something extraordinary with Leicester, but it seems it was time to move on...
Last night Leicester eliminated the highly rated Europa League champions of Sevilla from the Champions League, making it to the quarterfinals. Despite a lucky 1-2 defeat in Spain, Leceister was all but lucky in their 2-0 victory playing an intelligent and disciplined match where they looked more like the team that took everyone with storm last season.
Leicester are not among the 8 best in Europe, and will be facing some giant in the next round. But do not discount them: Leicester has surprised before!