Thursday, December 29, 2005

Top-10 biggest football turds of 2005

2005 has been a year where many have brought negative attention upon themselves in the world of football. This is my top-10 list of the so-called "turds":
  • 8) Jorge Fosatti: Uruguay did not qualify for the World Cup, and is a great football nation that will be missed in Germany. They lost their final play-off match against Australia. Before the play-off match, the Uruguayan coach Fosatti, had been very arrogant and had spoken lowly of the Australia team, only to be beaten on the pitch.
  • 7) Abel Xavier: The Portuguese defender of Middelsborough was tested positive for doping in November, and he was suspended for 18 months.
  • 6) Wayne Rooney: He is undoubtfully a wonderful player. But this year his temper has run off with him too many times, which has brought unwanted attention on him. First was his attack on David Beckham during the Northern Ireland-England World Cup qualifier, and then his foolish red card in the Manchester United-Villarreal Champions League match. It seems lately he has managed to control himself, so I hope he can avoid getting on this list next year!
  • 5) Referee Robert Hoyser: This German referee brought forth the specter of corrupt referees in football. Scandals also emerged in Brazil, but what makes Mr. Hoyser special, is that he was sentenced to 2 years in prison because of his admitting to fixing nine matches. And this was in the country that will host next year's World Cup...
  • 3) Turkish players: More pathetic that their own fans, were the players of the Turkish national team. When the game between Turkey and Switzerland ended, with Switzerland qualifying for the World Cup, the disappointment of the Turkish players turned into blind rage, and they were caught on camera attacking Swiss players. Turkey should be suspended.
  • 2) Italian fans: Racism in football has continued growing this year. While last year it was the Spanish fans, this year it has been in Italy. The issue came to a high in November, when the Ivorian player of Messina, Zoro, was reduced to tears by Inter Milan's fans racist chants.
  • 1) Paolo Di Canio: With racism being the scourge of football and European society nowadays, it is pathetic to see the captain of Lazio, one of Italy's leading clubs, do a facist salute to the openly racist fans whenever he scores a goal. He has been fined and suspended for it, but he says he will continue doing it.
The list has not been that difficult to do. Unfortunately, many have done stupid things this year. I hope there won't be that many in 2006!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Top 10 coolest football people pf 2005

I have before made a top 10 of coolest football personalities of the year. This category is about people, or groups of people, whom I have found have brought positive attention upon themselves in the World of football:
  • 10) Gambia fans: I have to include these on the list due to the stupid stunt the made during the U-17 World Cup in Peru in September: they pretended to have engine problems in a plane, in order to catch a match with their national team. It was stupid, but worthy of a high degree of football fanaticism.
  • 9) Liverpool fans: They were great, and deserved the victory they were given this year with their Champions League triumph.
  • 8) Real Madrid fans: A lot of people will be smiling, knowing my antipathy towards Real Madrid. However, I feel the fans of this team deserve to be on the list due to the display of fairness they showed when Real Madrid lost 3-0 to Barcelona at home in November. The fans simply clapped of Barcelona, in admiration of the amazing football display they had been witness to. Not many fans in the world would do that.
  • 7) Roman Abramovich: The billionaire owner of Chelsea belongs here, because he is a huge football fan. He has done what I would do if I was a billionaire: buy a team, get some great players, the best coach, and try to win everything!
  • 6) Diego Maradona: I have long admired Maradona. He is the main reason I started watching football as I was a child in Argentina. Therefore, I was always sad to see how he was going down the drain. But this year it seems Mr. Maradonahas gotten his act together: he hosts a popular TV show and seems fit. This is probably the greatest battle he will ever win!
  • 5) Rafa Benitez: The Liverpool coach had made Valencia UEFA and domestic champions in 2004. That was apparently not enough for Valencia's leadership to make him stay. But Mr. Benitez took the offer from Liverpool, and in 2005 they have been one of the best teams of the year, notably with their Champions League triumph in Istambul.
  • 4) Jose Mourinho: Mr. Mourinho is arrogant indeed. But he is has a reason to be: he is an amazing coach. At the same time, by his sheer personality, he is taking all the burden off his players, and carrying it all himself. In a world of football, where stars shine shortly, this is very risky, and you have to be a strong personality to do it.
  • 3) Adrian Mutu: The former Chelsea striker almost ruined his career because of cocaine. I have no doubt he has had to fight his way back to the pitch, but he is indeed back on a strong Juventus side.
  • 2) Manchester Fans: My experience with Manchester United fans is very positive, and I have always admired them. This year, they faced the takeover of their team by the media-magnate Mr. Malcolm Glazer. They rightly fear that Mr. Glazer will turn the clud into a money machine, in place of the symbol of the city it is. Although in the end, Mr. Glazer has managed to take over the club, the fans feeble attempts at hindering the takeover were an admirable feat of the fans against the money. At least somebody is trying to show that football belongs to the fans, although this might be a dream long gone...
  • 1) Rene Temmink: Racism in football continues to be a disgrace. All over the pitches of Europe, racism thrives, as a rotten sympton of sick societies. Although UEFA has made feeble attempts at solving the problem, it just seems to grow. Therefore, it was admirable when a Dutch referee, Mr. Temmink stepped in and stopped a match because of the racist chants by the fans. It is seldom a referee shows such character, and Mr. Temmink is a friend of football, and a decent human being. There seem to be too few of both around in the world these days...
This is my list. I was close to being very arrogant and nominating myself. As usual, I have identified everything with football this year: I ditched a cocktail with a Danish Minister for a football game, and I remember my fight with malaria because of a football game. Although I think people consider me a decent guy, I have concluded that football for me has moved beyond passion, and become an addiction...

Top 10 Best teams of 2005

I have already made my list of the top 10 best players of 2005. Something I have found much more difficult, was to make my list of best teams of 2005. There have truly been some remarkable team performances in 2005. My final (and as always, very personal list) is as follows:
  • 7) Olympique Lyon: The French side has won the French league and been very strong in the Champions League. They are one of the teams to watch next year.
  • 6) Brazil: It is difficult to make a list like this without Brazil Although starting the year with some problems, they had an excellent performance winning the 2005 Confederations Cup, and later qualifying for the World Cup. With the many star players on the team, they must be considered favourites to win the World Cup title.
  • 5) Boca Juniors: The legendary Argentinian side is among the top teams in the World. This year they finished greatly by winning the Argentinian tournament, as well as the South American Cup after a dramatic match against UNAM Pumas from Mexico.
  • 4) Chelsea: In 2005 the London club with the many stars won their first Premier League title in decades. Still the club is far more ambitious, and the Champions League is their targets. The team has started the new season strongly, and they are heading straight for a new Premier League title.
  • 3) Barcelona: The Catalan side has played entertaining and attacking football, and their stars are shining brightly. Most of all Ronaldinho. The team took a deserved Spanish title, and they have taken a strong lead in the Spanish league. They also won their group in the Champions League, and we will be witnessing a clash of champions between Barcelona and Chelsea in February.
  • 2) Liverpool: Liverpool lived up to their history. And they gave us the most memorable game of the year, and one of the most dramatic finals in history. I will never forget their victory in the Champions League in Istambul, coming back from being behind 3-0 against AC Milan, and finally winning on penalties. I thank Liverpool for such a great football-experience!
The top five positions have been especially difficult to place. In the end I gave Sao Paulo the top spot for having won two of the most prestigious international titles, as compared to Liverpool, who only won one. Also, the only reason I ranked Barcelona above Chelsea, is that I like Barcelona better...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Best Player Top 10 of 2005

The year is coming to an end, and it is time to give my own personal compilation of top 10 football players of the year. Most of them are newcomers, but others were also on my 2004 list:
  • 10) Didier Drogba: Chelsea has rightfully been criticized for playing overly defensive. But they still have a very powerful striking force, and the best one is Didier Drogba. This year, he has confirmed himself as one of the best strikers in the world. Furthermore, he has been part of the Ivory Coast team that qualified for their first World Cup ever.
  • 9) Lionel Messi: The Argentinian youngster is certainly the newcomer of the year. He was the best player for Argentina's U-21 team that won the World Championship in the Netherlands in July. He had some problems starting in Barcelona, due to questions on his status as "extra-comunitario", but has shined since on the great Barcelona team. He will surely be a player to watch in 2006!
  • 8) Juan Roman Riquelme: The former Barcelona player was a very important player in the Villarreal side that qualified for its first Champions League ever. At the time of writing, Villarreal had won their first round group in front of Benfica, Lille and mighty Manchester United, and is set to play Glasgow Rangers in the final-16 in February. Mr. Riquelme was also an important player of an Argentinian national team that had an excellent spring, becoming the first South American side to qualify for the World Cup after a marvelous 3-1 victory against Brazil, where Mr. Riquelme scored the second goal.
  • 7) Michael Essien: His marvelous performance in Olympique Lyon in the spring, was rewarded with a highly anticipated change to Chelsea. In the London-team he has been an important defensive player, although his imagine has been tarnished by his recent violent tackles, particularly the one on Didi Hamann. However, it does not take away that he has had a wonderful year. He was furthermore an important player on the Ghana national team that qualified for its first World Cup ever.
  • 6) Frank Lampard: Frank Lampard was also on last year's list. He has continued playing excellent on a Chelsea side that seems un-beatable. Also on the English national team, he has been one of the better-performing players on a team that had some difficulty qualifying for the World Cup.
  • 5) Samuel Eto'o: Topscorer of last season's Spanish league with Barcelona, as well as the leading scorer at the end of the season, he has been another of the important player's on the great Catalan team this year. On another front, the World Cup dream faded for him and Cameroun, so he will be one of the missed great players next year in Germany.
  • 4) Juninho: Has been marvelous in the strong Olympique Lyon team. They have been French champions as well as very strong in the Champions League, where a memorable 3-0 victory against Real Madrid gave them an early lead in a group they easily won. Mr. Juninho is probably the best free-kicker in the world at the moment, and in February, we will see his magic against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.
  • 3) Steven Gerrard: This was a marvelous year for Steven Gerrard. He was the captain of Liverpool's amazing victory in the Champions League final. There was much talk of him changing to a "bigger" club, but he has fortunately stayed in Liverpool. He has continued playing very well into the new season, and will be an important player as Liverpool try to defend their title, as well as for the English side in the World Cup.
  • 2) Adriano: The Brazilian striker in Inter Milan is surely the best striker in the world at the moment. He scores many goals in the Italian league as well as in the Champions League. For Brazil he has also become the main striker, and he is specially remembered for his marvelous strike against Argentina in the final of the 2005 Confederations Cup this summer.
  • 1) Ronaldinho: The Brazilian was also top of my list in 2004. He has continued as a super-player this year, and now the titles have begun coming: with Barcelona he won the Spanish title, and with Brazil he both qualified for the World Cup and won the 2005 Confederations Cup. There is no doubt Mr. Ronaldinho will be a key player in both Barcelona and Brazil as they contend for Spanish title, Champions League and World Cup in 2006.
The list is as always difficult to complete, and is of course my own personal opinion. I would like to hear others though!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Spanish League end of year

In the last game of 2005 in the Spanish League, Real Madrid ended a horrible year by losing 1-2 at home to Racing Santander. As thorughout the year, Real Madrid was pathetic, a team without spirit, that doesn't even inspire respect any more. The Real Madrid fans were not happy. It will be a sad Christmas in Real Madrid!
On the other hand, Christmas will be great in Barcelona. They ended the year with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Celta Vigo. Barcelona is playing amazingly, and many of it's players are on the top of their career at the moment. Barcelona is formidable, and heading straight to a new Spanish title in 2006, and they are certainly the team to watch in 2006!
My own favourites from Valencia have been improving lately, and they finished the year with a good 3-0 home victory against Mallorca. This puts them on third spot in the League table, and the team is sure to continue ahead in 2006, although to threaten Barcelona in any way must remain in the realm of hope.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sao Paulo: World Champions

Sao Paulo FC from Brazil, yesterday became World Champions for clubs. In Yokohama they defeated the European Champions from Liverpool 1-0 after a first-half goal by Mineiro. Liverpool played well, and managed to put on pressure on the Brazilians, but they were not sharp enough in front of the goal.
This was the first official FIFA World Cup played with the club champions from each continent. It did not get that much coverage, but the games were generally good. In the end, it demonstrated the utter dominance in club-football by European and South American teams.

Congratulations to all Sao Paulo fans!

Champions League Last-16 draw

The first round of the UEFA Champions League ended with some surprises. The biggest was probably Manchester United's elimination in Group D. Meanwhile Glasgow Rangers managed to sqeeze through behind Inter Milan in Group H, while largely all the favourites continued on from the other groups.
Last week, the draw for the fixtures in the last-16 took place, with some very interesting matches ahead:
Two teams who are currently going through crises in their respective leagues, will be under great pressure to perform in the Champions League. I tip Arsenal to be the better at the moment though, as I do not believe in Madrid after their recent changes.
This will be a classic clash between two of the greatest teams in Europe! Bayern Munich has been looking very strong lately, although the Milanese are never to be underestimated. Both are teams that can make it all the way.
PSV continues from its good performance of last season. However, they will surely have to play their best against a Lyon side that has been simply amazing this season. The French deserve to get very far in this tournament.
Liverpool is playing very well, and will continue figting hard to defend their title. Benfica showed strength however, when defeating Manchester United in their last match. I believe that Liverpool will prevail though.
This is without any doubt the clash of titans. These are the two best teams in Europe at the moment, both leading their respective leagues, and playing awesome football, although very different styles indeed: Barcelona's magic attacking football, against Chelsea's strong defensive style. When they met last season, it was an amazing match, and it is sure to be again. This one is not to be missed!
Glasgow Rangers made it through with their splendid fight. They will ahve to continue doing their best against a Villarreal side who won its group ahead of Benfica, Lille and Manchester United.
The Italians from Juventus are playing well at the moment. Werder Bremen continued from the group by destroying Panathinaikos 5-1, and depending on Barcelona defeating Udinese. The Germans will surely have their hands full against Juventus.
Another classic match. Ajax is not as strong as in former times however, and Inter Milan's awesome strikers, led by Adriano, will be difficult to control for the Dutch defenders.

The first round of matches take place on February 21st and 22nd!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The 2006 World Cup draw

The draw for the 2006 World Cup in Germany took place on December 9th. Although I have been somehow absent from this blog for some weeks, I have keenly followed the draw, and I am very excited to see the groups as follows:
  • Group A: Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador
Apparently not an overly difficult group for the hosts, although Costa Rica is a team to watch. Also Poland will be delighted to defeat their large Western neighbor.
  • Group B: England, Sweden, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago
One of the more difficult groups. England, Sweden and Paraguay are all very strong teams who can win the group. Trinidad & Tobago, in their first World Cup appearance will have a difficult time (although nobody should be underestimated!)
  • Group C: Argentina, Netherlands, Serbia-Montenegro, Ivory Coast
This could easily be dubbed the "group of death". Argentina and Netherlands are two favourites for the title. Ivory Coast and Serbia-Montenegro are both very strong teams. While I do not hide my support for Argentina, I know it will be difficult.
  • Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal
A very interesting group, where Mexico and Portugal must be counted as the clear favourites. It will be interesting to watch the other teams though, in particularly Angola, making its World Cup debut. They will surely give the Portuguese a great fight!
  • Group E: Italy, Czech Republic, USA, Ghana
Another very difficult group. The Czech's are one of the strongest teams in Europe at the moment. The Italians are strong as always, while the 2002-quarterfinalists USA must never be underestimated. Ghana, with a very strong team, will have to display its best on their first World Cup appearance ever. There is no doubt however, that I hope for Ghana and the USA to continue from this group.
  • Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Japan, Australia
The group does not look too difficult for the defending World Champions of Brazil. However, they will start against an always fighting Croatian side, and will be facing some interesting matches with both Japan and Australia.
  • Group G: France, Switzerland, Togo, South Corea
In spite of France's difficulties in qualifying, they must surely be favourites in this group. Switzerland is strong, while South Corea will hope to continue from its excellent 2002 performance. Togo is making its first World Cup appearance.
  • Group H: Spain, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ucraine
Spain and Ucraine are surely favourites in this group. Tunisia, defending African champions may pose a challenge. The Saudi Arabians will have a difficult time.

Kick-off will be on June 9th 2006. Until then, we will start seeing the preparations take place. Then it will be easier to come with some predictions. But it is now getting closer, and time for all fans to start get excited!

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!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Deportivo's un-surprising victory

David Beckham's suspension was strangely rejected by the Spanish football federation, so there was hope in the Madrid-camp that Real Madrid might come back with a good result from La Coruña. But David Beckham is not the only weak link in a weak team.
Tonight Real Madrid lost 3-1 to a far superior Deportivo La Coruña in the Galician capital. However, this might not be that surprising as some lesser-knowing football enthusiasts might think. Besides Real Madrid bad playing of the last two seasons, Deportivo has a strong statistic at home against Madrid: They have not won in La Coruña since the 1991-92 season.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Excellent football weekend

It has been an excellent football weekend (and I am not only saying this because of my personal joy this weekend).

In the English Premier League Chelsea finally lost a point, to league-trailers Everton. However, Chelsea's lead is so large with 28 points (Charlton on second has 19), that it is difficult to see how they would not win the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspurs is on third spot. They managed a good 1-1 result in Manchester United, after a beautiful free-kick goal by Jermaine Jenas. Manchester United is looking more and more like a second rate team, just as some of it's players get themselves in trouble off the pitch.
Fulham defeated Champions League winners Liverpool 2-0. It seems Liverpool will only be fighting in Europe again this season.
Arsenal won a hard-fought victory against Manchester City. The more bizarre thing in this match was Robert Pires missed penalty. Seems it was not a good weekend for French penalty shooters, as Zidane's pathetic kick against Valencia demonstrates.

In Italy's Serie A, Juventus is five points ahead of AC Milan on top after a strong 0-3 away victory to Lecce.

In the classic battle for Rome, between AS Roma and Lazio, it ended with a 1-1 tie with goals by Francesco Totti and Tomasso Rocchi.

In Denmark, FC Copenhagen continued on top after a narorw 1-0 home victory against little Horsens. On the other hand, defending champions Brøndby kept a strong pressure on Copenhagen after an impressive 5-0 win against FC Midtjylland.

In Spain's Primera División, the most talked about was of course Valencia´s victory against Real Madrid. Valencia was far superior against a Real Madrid side that got two Red Cards: Gravesen after only six minutes on the pitch for his violent attack on Vicente, and David Beckham, for complaining. Seems Mr. Beckham is becoming good at the last, as he has also gotten red cards lately on the English national team. On top of this, Pablo García made a record appearance, becoming the fastest man to be awarded a yellow card in Spanish football. Another record in the match was better: Amadeo Carboni from Valencia became the oldest player ever to play in a Spanish League match. He is 40.

With Real Madrid's loss, the Spanish league is very close. FC Barcelona moved up in the table with 13 points, with a 3-0 victory over 5th placed Osasuna. Top team is still surprising Getafe with 17 points. They continued their impressive performance with an excellent 5-2 victory over Real Zaragoza. It will be interesting how far they can take it.

All in all, a great weekend!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The worst that can happen a football fanatic

It is really bad to see your team humiliated. I was afraid this might happen by watching Real Madrid-Valencia, and so I was in doubt as if to watch it at all. In the end, I decided I might as well be brave and face the potential defeat in Madrid.

So I decided to go to my usual Sports Bar in Accra, Champs. I was more than delighted; the game was excellent. Valencia went ahead on a splendid free-kick by Baraja, after Zidane pathetically missed a non-existing penalty kick. Then Raul equalized on a lucky strike, and Valencia scored again on a non-existing penalty. The game had it all...

Then, 22 minutes into the second half, the staff at Champs decided to switch away from the game... Don't mind they have around 10 TV screens... No, they had to show a movie on all of them. Don't mind they had announced they would show Real Madrid-Valencia. Don't mind there were actually guys there watching the match...

A Sports Bar that does that is a joke of a Sports bar. One thing is that they would not show the match, another to announce it, and then turn it off in the middle of it. I am hereby starting my personal boycott against Champs in Accra. I had always gone there to watch football, and was very fond of the place. But to do this to a football fan is worse than pissing on him. Never go to Champs Sports Bar in Accra.

However, now I am delighted. Valencia won!!! They had not won in Madrid since 1999! But I missed it...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Champions League Matchday 3

This season's Champions League has so far not had many goals, and there are still too many 0-0 games. However, particularly in last night's games, some of the big teams like Chelsea or Real Madrid showed great strength and started putting some goals in.
The result of this round are:
  • Bayern Munich-Juventus 2-1
    Goals: Deisler, Demichelis; Ibrahimovic

Great game by the Germans, although the victory seemed narrow in the end. However, it is never easy to defeat Juve. Demichelis has become an excellent goal scorer in the CL!

  • Rapid Vienna-Club Brugge 0-1
    Goals: Balaban

The Belgians got three points away, and are still alive in the tournament.

  • Ajax Amsterdam-Thun 2-0
    Goals: Anastasiou (2)

Important home victory for Ajax, while Thun will be fighting hard to hang on.

  • Sparta Prague-Arsenal 0-2
    Goals: Henry (2)

Thierry Henry is back! His first goal was amazing, and Arsenal is well on the way to win Group B with 9 points for 3 matches.

  • Panathinaikos-Barcelona 0-0

Many are talking about a crisis in Barcelona. While things are not going their way in the league, a 0-0 away in Greece is not a bad result, as they are still winning the group.

  • Udinese-Werder Bremen 1-1
    Goals: Di Natale; Da Silva Felipe (OG)

The group is very close, although this was Bremen's first point. All teams have a good option at following Barcelona into the next round.

  • Manchester United-Lille 0-0

Manchester United was a great disappointment at home to Lille. Scholes' red card was plainly stupid, and it is becoming obvious that the team's crisis must also have something to do with the player's attitude on the pitch.

  • Villarreal-Benfica 1-1
    Goals: Riquelme; Fernandes

Third tie for Villarreal, but at least now they have scored. Still, all teams in this group (the others are Manchester United and Lille) still have options for the next round.

  • FC Porto-Inter 2-0
    Goals: Materazzi (OG), McCarthy

After losing at home to Artmedia, FC Porto was being discounted in the tournament. However, they have showed that they are very much alive with this great victory against the strong Italians.

  • Glasgow Rangers-Artmedia Bratislava 0-0

A good away point for Artmedia, who is trailing Inter by 2 points for first spot. There could be another sensation on the way from the Slovakians!

  • Anderlecht-Liverpool 0-1
    Goals: Cisse

A very important away victory for Liverpool, with a good goal by Cisse. The Reds are continuing the fight to defend their title.

  • Chelsea-Betis 4-0
    Goals: Drogba, Carvalho, J. Cole, Crespo

Betis did not start bad, but made some stupid mistakes in defence, which a team like Chelsea never forgives. Chelsea is looking more and more scary, and is a serious contender for the title.

  • Real Madrid-Rosenborg 4-1
    Goals: Woodgate, Raul, Helguera, Beckham; Strand

A weak Madrid was losing 1-0 at half time, but came backa gainst a technically inferior Norwegian side. They showed that they do not need Ronaldo to score goals. However, their vulnerability in defence is still obvious.

  • Lyon-Olympiakos 2-1
    Goals: Juninho, Govou; Kafes

Lyon is winning the group with 9 points for three games. Although Real Madrid is getting stronger, the French side has been by far the best-playing in the group so far. They can get very far in the tournament,

  • AC Milan-PSV Eindhoven 0-0

Good away result for PSV. Milan is still winning the group with 5 points, being trailed by both Fenerbahce and PSV with 4.

  • Fenerbahce-Schalke 04 3-3
    Goals: Luciano, Nobre, Appiah; Lincoln (2), Kuranyi

This was a very exciting match, with an impressive scoreline. An important late equalizer for Fenerbahce by Stephen Appiah kept Fenerbahce on second spot. However, Schalke is trailing with 2 points.

We are now halfway through the first round. It is getting more clear who might be in the next round for some groups, and in others, the drama is growing.

Finally, in the UEFA Fantasy Football, my team Football-fanatics has been doing terrible. However, prior to this round I changed 5 players. It seems to have improved the team marginally, so I am still hoping!

Friday, October 14, 2005

European World Cup Qualifiers Play-off draws

Today was the draws for the play-off matches in November:
  • Spain-Slovakia
  • Norway-Czech Republic
  • Turkey-Switzerland
Predictions are tempting to make on Spain, Turkey and the Czechs. However, in these kind of matches all teams will try their best to take the three last spots for Germany. The Slovakians have their first game in Spain, which is a slight advantage. The Norwegians are always strong in defence against a Czech side which has been having attacking problems. Finally, the Swiss have been doing well against a Turk team that tends to underestimate other teams - just see their last play-off against Latvia for the Euro 2004.

It will surely be nerve-wrecking games, in particularly for the fans!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

World Cup 2006 Qualifiers

Three more teams qualified for the World Cup 2006 after yesterday’s qualifiers:

  • France: The French destroyed Cyprus 4-0, and with a tie in Switzerland’s match against Ireland, the French swept to top of the group, after much difficulty. First time since 1986 France qualifies “by itself”… (in 1998 they qualified as hosts, and in 2002 as defending champions).
  • Serbia-Montenegro: Defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina in the last match, gave the Serbians the top spot in the group in front of Spain.
  • Sweden: It was very unlikely that Sweden would not qualify before yesterday's match, even if losing to Iceland at home. However, the strong Swedes won a 3-1 victory, and are now ready for Germany.

With these, 27 teams are now ready for Germany 2006. There are five more teams to go, and they will be found among the following:

  • Trinidad/Tobago-Bahrain: This will be the play-off game between the Asian play-off winner and number 4 in the North- Central America zone. I bet Uzbekistan is disappointed it was not them instead of Bahrain, after their victory in the first match was annulled. Instead Bahrain made it through by tying 1-1 away, and getting 0-0 at home.
  • Uruguay-Australia: Uruguay made sure they would get the fifth spot in South America, by defeating Argentina 1-0 in Montevideo in their last group match. Australia has never won a play-off against a South American fifth before, and will again have a hard time against the seasoned double-World Champions.

The draw for the European play-offs will be tomorrow (Friday October 14th), but there will be the following teams in the bowl:

  • Spain: Will be a hard team for anybody to defeat, but hardly impossible. A 6-0 win over San Marino only gave them second spot after the Serbians.
  • Czech Republic: With a resounding 3-0 victory against Finland in their last match, the Czechs squeezed past the Romanians on the second spot.
  • Turkey: With a difficult 1-0 away-victory against Albania, the silver-medallists from 2002, grabbed the second spot in front of a disappointed Danish side.
  • Slovakia: After a nerve-wrecking 0-0 at home against Russia, the Slovakians got the second spot, and will have another chance at qualifying for their first world cup.
  • Switzerland: 0-0 in Ireland was enough for the Swiss to get a play-off match.
  • Norway: The Norwegians were in a group which was easily won by Italy. They will surely have their hands full against any coming adversary in the play-off.

The first three teams (Spain, Czechia and Turkey) are all top seeded, and can therefore not draw one another. Any of the three other teams will surely have a hard time against either of them, but it is certainly not impossible!

By November we should know the final list of countries who will fight for the trophy next summer!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More teams heading for the World Cup 2006

Yesterday, a number of new teams joined the already qualified, to book their tickets for Germany 2006.
All the African teams are ready:
  • Ghana: It was just a formality for the strong Ghanaians to ascertain their participation, by destroying Cape Verde. Go Ghana!
  • Togo: Most Europeans probably hardly know where Togo is... But they won their group ahead of the popular Senegalese from the 2002 World Cup, and shall not be underestimated.
  • Côte d'Ivoire: A very strong team, with Chelsea star Didier Drogba in front. They had some luck in the last game though, as Cameroun missed a last minute penalty against Egypt at home, that gave the spot away to the Ivorians.
  • Angola: Another newcomer that won the group ahead of the strong Nigerians; they will surely be interesting to watch in Germany.
  • Tunisia: The defending African Champs got their spot with a 2-2 at home against Morocco.

In South America, Argentina and Brazil were joined by two teams:

  • Ecuador: With 0-0 in Quito against Uruguay, the Ecuatorians have made it to their second world cup in a row. In 2002, they were out in the first round, but after defeating a strong Croatian side.
  • Paraguay: After defeating Venezuela away 1-0, they will be participating in their 7th world cup, third in a row.

There is still a strong fight for the fifth spot in South America, which gives a play-off match against Australia. The contenders are Uruguay, Colombia and Chile. I will not hide my strong sympathy for Colombia, who will be facing Paraguay in Asuncion on Wednesday.

In Europe, Germany and Ukraine have been joined by six teams:

  • Netherlands: With an impressive 2-0 victory in Prague, the Orange machine (and their great fans) will be a welcome nation in Germany.
  • Italy: The Italians are now qualified with a typical 1-0 victory against Slovenia.
  • Portugal: Maybe the Portuguese were not out for revenge against little Liechtenstein (after their 2-2 in October 2004, Liechtenstein's first point ever!), so although their 2-1 home-victory may seem meager, it still booked them tickets for Germany.
  • Poland: The Poles were already mathematically qualified, and they did not play yesterday. They still have one match against England, to fight for the first spot of the group.
  • England: With a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Austria, the English are mathematically qualified, at least as one of the best runner-ups. Next Wednesday's match against Poland is about the honour of who wins the group.
  • Croatia: Their third World Cup in a row, after defeating the strong Swedes 1-0 in Zagreb.

Sweden and Serbia-Montenegro are both only one step away from qualifying. In the meantime, France is having difficulties in Group 4, which is now being led by Israel. Other teams are struggling for the runner-up spots, and thus a play-off match: Turkey, Denmark, Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Russia, Romania, Czechia. All these teams still have a lot of sweat and hardship ahead of them...

In the Central- and North American zone, one new team joined the USA and Mexico:

  • Costa Rica: The Ticos were an entertaining team in both 1990 and in 2002, and will be very welcome in Germany. They qualified last night after a resounding 3-0 victory against the USA in San Jose.

The number four of this zone, will get a play-off match against either Uzbekistan or Bahrain. It is now Trinidad and Tobago, closely followed by Guatemala.

The Uzbekistan-Bahrain match (which had to be re-played due to a strange referee decision) ended 1-1, so it still remains to be seen which of these four nations we will see in Germany. But it will certainly be a newcomer.

We now have 24 teams out of the 32 to go to Germany. Next Wednesday and Thursday, we will know a few more!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cape Verde-Ghana

Before Ghana went into the last World Cup qualifier, there was still a theoretical chance they might not qualify: If Congo defeated South Africa, and Ghana lost by enough goals, Congo would be in instead of Ghana. But The Black Stars made no doubt as to which team belongs in Germany next year. In a great show of strength, Ghana destroyed Cape Verde 4-0. Their first world cup, and they will be a team to be reckoned with.
And Ghana is not the only West African place where there will be celebrations: with a 2-3 away win to Congo, Togo also qualified for their first World Cup. The same did Ghana's Western neighbor, Côte d'Ivoire, who benefitted from Cameroun's draw at home to Egypt.
Angola also qualified for their first World Cup ever, in a group ahead of the seasoned Nigerians. So there will be many new African teams in Germany next year, and they will be strong.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Viva Mexico!

The final of the U-17 FIFA World Championship in Peru was a rather one-sided affair. The young Mexicans destroyed the defending champions from Brazil 3-0, to claim their first ever Youth World title. It is truly a great moment for Mexican football. Their team has been excellent throughout the tournament, and we might see more of some of the players in the future: Giovanni Dos Santos, the Mexican playmaker, who is already in contract in Barcelona. Also however, one should mention the Brazilian striker Anderson, the tournament's best player, whose early substitution due to injury in the final proved crucial for the match.

In the game for Bronze, the Netherlands defeated the charming Turks 2-1.

It has, as usual, been an entertaining tournament. Many of these young players will not make it to the world stage, but they must surely be thanked for their abilities and sportmanship!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Champions League 2005-06: Matchday 2

Champions League matchday 2 in the 2005-06 season is over, and the results are as follows:
  • Bayern Munich-Club Brugge 1-0: The South Germans won on a goal by Argentinian DeMichelies, but Bayern did not look overly impressive, and the Belgians should certainly be reckoned with.
  • Juventus-Rapid Vienna 3-0: The Juve strikers are incredible, and I do believe that we should expect Juventus to get very far in this tournament
  • Ajax Amsterdam-Arsenal 1-2: For once, Arsenal had some Champions League luck, as Ajax were far superior in most aspects of the game. But a controversial penalty gave the Gunners all three points.
  • Thun-Sparta Prague 1-0: The Swiss got their first victory in the Champions League, and should not be underestimated
  • Panathinaikos-Werder Bremen 2-1: An important home victory for the Greeks in a group that will be very close.
  • Barcelona-Udinese 4-1: Udinese has been a revelation team in Italy, but Ronaldinho’s magic, with three goals, made sure Barcelona now has an important head-start in Group C.
  • Manchester United-Benfica 2-1: An important victory for a Manchester team in crisis.
  • Lille-Villarreal 0-0: I think Villarreal has a lot to show, but two 0-0 games so far is nothing, although they are still undefeated.
  • Schalke 04-AC Milan 2-2: Schalke did well against some of the world’ s greatest strikers, but they will have a hard time in the coming matches.
  • Fenerbahce-PSV Eindhoven 3-0: The Dutch managed to win their first match, but after this defeat, Group E will be very open.
  • Rosenborg-Olympique Lyon 0-1: Never easy to win in Norway, but the amazing French team take a first spot ahead of Real Madrid.
  • Real Madrid-Olympiakos 2-1: Real Madrid has continued to look very weak the last few months, and now they should show their potential. In a hard struggle, Real Madrid pulled a victory. It is still not overly convincing.
  • Liverpool-Chelsea 0-0: No winner in a classic match, although Liverpool certainly did far better than defensive Chelsea.
  • Anderlecht-Betis Seville 0-1: A good win for Betis after initailly losing to Liverpool They should now be ready for the big matches.
  • Inter-Glasgow Rangers 1-0: Inter dominated the match, but only managed a slim 1-0 victory in an empty stadium.
  • FC Porto-Artmedia Bratislava 2-3: I had never heard about the Slovaklians, but they now seem to be a team to be reckoned with. I just hope they get far!

Congratulations to all the winning fans!

Great matches, although my team in the UEFA fantasy football, Football Fanatics, is doing really bad...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gambia in the U-17 World Cup

In the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Peru, we have now reached the semi-finals, which look like the following:

  • Turkey-Brazil
  • Netherlands-Mexico

Brazil-Turkey should in particular be an interesting match, as Brazil are defending champions, and Turkey has played marvellously.

However, there is something more interesting that happened in the first round to the African champions from Gambia (whom I do not have the greatest sympathy with because of how they won the African Cup):
After defeating Brazil and Qatar in their first two matches, African Champions from Gambia were only a step away from the quarterfinals before their last match against the Netherlands. Gambia lost the game 2-0, and was out on goal difference.
But prior to the final match, the Gambians had displayed true fanaticism in the match against Qatar. To support the team, the Gambian president decided to send 300 fans in a specially chartered plane from Gambia to Peru. Apparently the planning was not too good… The match was being played in Piura, many kilometres from Lima, and in order to get to the stadium, the plane decided to fake an emergency landing in Piura (which has no international airport), in order to get to the game.
The fans did get to watch the match though, while the plane apparently was impounded to the airport in Lima.
After hearing this story, I was considering to nominate the Gambians as the biggest football-fanatics or not. But I must say that such a daring act of stupid football fanaticism must deserve a nomination!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Playstation 2 football games

In my life a young bachelor, I needed some extra spice. So I have now become the proud owner of a Playstation 2. I must admit, that to this day, I had never tried it. But it has now become a important source of entertainment in my home.

There are quite a few football games for PS2, but so far, I have only tried two: Pro Evolution Soccer 4 and Red Card.
When I first played ProEvolution Soccer I was mostly impressed by the graphics: The players look very realistic, as well as the movements and the whole atmosphere around the matches. The game contains an amazing amount of details, which actually takes a very long time to learn. At first, I was mostly playing against a friend, but have since had a hard time defeating the computer, because of the great amount of combinations on the console. There are also options as to the game strategy, the line-ups and which players to use.
Adding more realism to the game, and to the artificial intelligence in it, it matters which teams and players you select: Brazil will be better than Austria. But of course, if you are a good player, you should be able to win (even) with Austria. There are furthermore options to play different leagues, as well as setting up tournaments. Recently, I played Colombia in an America's Cup tournament. After destroying Brazil 3-0 in the semifinal, I lost 2-1 to Argentina in an exciting final.

RedCard is far behind ProEvolution Soccer in almost every aspect. There is only a limited number of teams to select from, and it is far easier to control the players, whose artificial intelligence is far lower. However, what gives Red Card its comical edge, is that no foul whatsoever is sanctioned. So if you get to know the controls well, you can tackle from behind, elbows in the face, kicks in the knees, etc., with only the game-speaker shouting "amazing the referee let that go!". This is the game for any wanna-be football bully: stay at home playing this, and do not go out to hurt anyone!
There are many more football games I need to try out. I have been informed that a Pro Evolution Soccer 5 is coming out this year. I would certainly also want to try some Manager game. Any recommendations?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Barcelona-Valencia and Brøndby-FC Copenhagen

After 2-2 in Barcelona last night, Valencia remains undefeated in the Spanish league (Although Celta Vigo has now taken over first spot). Barcelona has not started off very well this season, but I am sure they will improve. In spite of this, it is impressive that Valencia remains undefeated in Barcelona since 2000! I am getting my hopes up for the season!
In another match, in another league, Brøndby and FC Copenhagen played 1-1. Considering the many injuries Brøndby had, it was a good result. However, Brøndby remains 6 points behind Copenhagen on first spot, and should start closing the gap.

Monday, September 19, 2005

FIFA U-17 World Champions

The 11th FIFA U-17 World Cup started in Peru this weekend. Traditionally, these tournaments have been dominated by African teams, although the defending champions are Brazil. The table shows the history of the tournament that started in 1985:

China
1985

Nigeria

West
Germany

Brazil

Guinea

Canada
1987

USSR

NigeriaIvory
Coast
Italy

Scotland
1989

Saudi
Arabia

Scotland

Portugal

Bahrain

Italy
1991

Ghana

Spain

Argentina

Qatar

Japan
1993

Nigeria

Ghana

Chile

Poland

Ecuador
1995

Ghana

Brazil

Argentina

Oman

Egypt
1997

Brazil

Ghana

Spain

Germany

New
Zealand
1999

Brazil

Australia

Ghana

USA

Trinidad
& Tobago 2001

France

Nigeria

Burkina
Faso

Argentina

Finland
2003

Brazil

Spain

Argentina

Colombia

Peru
2005






This time, the Africans are also some of the teams to watch. Actually, the defending champs from Brazil, started by losing 1-3 to the African champions from Gambia.
Netherlands, Mexico, Italy and USA have also started with victories, while the Peruvian hosts started by playing 1-1 with Ghana in a very tight group A.
The tournament might not reflect as much the real football strength at senior level asfor instance the U-21 World Cup. However, many young stars have played this tournament before, and it is likely that more than one future football star is playing for the glory of his country in Peru these days.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Getafe number one

Third round in the Spanish league has just ended, and the table looks surprising, in particular after today's result.
Although it might be less and less surprising that the second-rate Real Madrid team lost for the third time this week, 1-0 to a strong Espanyol side in Barcelona, it is more worth noting that the defending champions from FC Barcelona lost 2-1 to Atlético Madrid. Atlético had a terrible last season, and with new purchases, has vowed to do better this season. And with the extraordinary match they displayed against Barcelona, they are certainly a team to watch.
Valencia and Deportivo La Coruña had a great clash in Valencia, which ended 2-2. Both teams are undefeated, but with Deportivo's 7 points, they are on second spot.
The surprising leaders are little-known (outside Spain) Getafe. Defeating Alavés 3-4 away, they are leading ahead of Deportivo on goal difference. It would be interesting to see them stay on the top for a while.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Manchester United-Villarreal, Rooney and malaria

Wednesday I had planned to continue watching more Champions League football. But by late afternoon I was having chills and headache. It continued downhill, and fearing that I had the dreaded West African malaria, I went to have my blood tested. As I was in the hospital's waiting room, they did the favour to put Manchester United-Villarreal on (at least I was not totally lonely...). I had difficulty focusing on the match, but could see that it would be hard for Manchester.
Around half-time I was tested, and as the doctor came out to give me the "positive" result, I saw Wayne Rooney get his foolish red card. This did not make things easier for Manchester United, and they can thank their disciplined defence for pulling home a 0-0.
I have been a Rooney-fan since the Euro 2004. This admiration however, is limited to the football pitch, and it is a shame that Mr. Rooney carries his bad temper on to the pitch. There have by now been numerous examples of this; lately on the England national team, during their loss against Northern Ireland.
Mr. Rooney is a wonderful footballer. He has the potential of becoming one of the great ones. But if he does not learn to behave, to control his temper, he will become more a of risk to his teams, instead of the amazing asset he could be. I know that many people are trying to get this message through to him, and I hope Mr. Rooney will be wise enough to get the message. If not, football will have lost a great player.
As to the less relevant things (my malaria), I still feel like I have been run over by Jaap Stam, tackled by Roy Keane and hit my head against a goal-post...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Finally has the Champions League started!

Most football fanatics have been waiting ages for the UEFA Champions League to start! Finally, tonight, it kicked-off with some excellent matches:
  • AC Milan-Fenerbahce 3-1: Last years finalists started the tournament well, with an amazing Kaka in a leading role. The young Brazilian is probably going to be one of the stars this season.
  • PSV Eindhoven-Schalke 04 1-0: Last season's Dutch surprise started with a deserved victory at home.
  • Olympique Lyon-Real Madrid 3-0: The Real Madrid circus continues; many people thought that last weekend's loss to Celta Vigo was an exception. But tonight we saw the French champions overrun the so-called "Galacticos". I am just tired that people still refer to them like that (of course, US and South African TV did so): This is the worse Real Madrid team in history! No titles for 2 years seems to continue!
  • Olympiakos-Rosenborg 1-3: The Norwegians started off with a surprise win in Greece. All the more so as they came back from 1-0 down!
  • Betis-Liverpool 1-2: Liverpool started like the true champions they are, showing that they will be hard to defeat as they defend their title. At the same time, Betis, -although starting the game very nervously-, showed that they will be a team to reckon with for anyone.
  • Chelsea-Anderlecht 1-0: Chelsea is another of the teams to be counted on this season. With an excellent goal by Frank Lampard, they are on the way.
  • Artmedia-Inter 0-1: The surprising Slovakians had their first match ever in the Champions League. Maybe it were the nerves, but they lost at home to the seasoned Italians, on a goal by Julio Cruz.
  • Glasgow Rangers-FC Porto 3-2: I have before said that Rangers will have a hard time in the Champions League. But this does not entail that they will have an impossible time. Tonight they showed exactly that with tenacity and fight, they can defeat any team, and that nobody should underestimate them.

These were the matches played tonight in Groups E, F, G and H.

Tomorrow, groups A, B, C and D will be playing.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football

On Tuesday the long-awaited Champions League season 2005/06 starts. The event needs to be planned carefully: cancel all appointments, set up the TV, get beers, study the teams, and of course, set a team in the UEFA Fantasy Football.
Last season, Abruniohene (as my team was beautifully named) did not do too well. I hope that this season, with my new team, Football Fanatics (modestly named after this web-site), will do much better.
The game rules are to buy a number of players on the different UEFA CL teams. One gets 100 mio. Euros to buy for. Players are valued according to how good they are, so you are not free to buy Europe´s eleven top strikers. However, as the tournament progresses, players will increase or decrease in value, and you can continue buying or selling.
Furthermore, there is a limit as to how many player you can take from each team (the limit is two). These limits , as well as the large number of teams and players, makes the selection quite a detailed process. But after a few hours of careful consideration, I now have spent the full amount of money, and now have the following team:
Goalkeepers:
  • Dida, AC Milan: Dida is one of the best goalies in the world in one of the best defensive teams in the world.
  • Malicki, Lille (substitute):I must admit that Lille's goalie was bought to save some money for other players.

Defenders:

  • Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United: The strong defender is often also good for a goal or two.
  • Juanito, Betis: A young Spanish star in one of the Spanish sides that may prove a revelation this season.
  • Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, FC Barcelona: Not always a starter in the Catalonian side, but often comes in as a good threat.
  • Ze Maria, Inter Milan:The Brazilian defender is not always a starter, but often comes in to defend well, when the Italians need to defend a narrow lead.
  • Alan Hutton, Glasgow Rangers (substitute): A talented young defender, although Rangers will have a difficult time in the Champions League.

Midfielders:

  • Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona: The young Argentinian is a potential superstar in European football. Could be one of the revelations this season, although taking him is a bit of a risk.
  • Juan R. Riquelme, Villarreal: One of the best players in Spain last season, he is the midfield-general who may lead Villareal to their first European success.
  • Luis Garcia, Liverpool: The talented Spaniard will surely be a key player as Liverpool will try to defend their title.
  • Joe Cole, Chelsea: Has not been brilliant lately, but I believe he will be again, as we enter well into the season.
  • Daniel Jensen, Werder Bremen (substitute): A Danish touch on my team - Mr. Jensen has been a key player, both on the national team and on the German team

Attack:

  • Adriano, Inter Milan: In my own humble opinion, Adriano is the the world's best striker at this very moment. He will makes defenders tremble in this season's Champions League.
  • Didier Drogba, Chelsea: Didier Drogba is also one of the world's best strikers right now. As Chelsea again tries to take the title, Drogba will be certain to make some goals.
  • Luciano Figueroa, Villarreal: Villarreal is an entertaining team that scores a lot of goals. If the team does well, Mr. Figueroa will probably be one of the leading scorers.

The first price this season is a trip to the Champions League final in Paris. It is sure to be easy, and I wish everybody luck!