Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New old coach for Brazil

Brazil must win the 2014 World Cup at home. The most winning football nation in World Cup history has never won the World Cup at home (until Spain won it, they were the only ones), after their debacle in the 1950 World Cup against Uruguay. There is no doubt that not winning it at home again would lead to a similar collective depression as 1950.
Therefore the matches of the Brazilian national team under manager Mano Menezes have been followed closely, and have surely not been convincing. Brazil was set on winning their first Olympic gold in London, but lost the final to Mexico, and although they had good results against weaker sides, they seemed to struggle when up against quality sides. Last week Brazil played what is effectively an Argentie B-side in the "super-clasico" friendly match. They won 2-1 on a penalty kick by Neymar in the final minutes of the match. But Brazil had looked weak against Argentina, and during the match fans had cheered for the return of coach Luis Felipe Scolari.
So Menezes was fired, and Scolari has been announced as new coach. He was also made coach in 2001 when Brazil was in crisis and failing to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Scolari succeeded: he led the team to take the 2002 World Cup title, and then stepped down as coach. Since then he has had a disappointing career, first coaching Portugal, then Chelsea, Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan, and ending in Palmeiras, from where he was fired a few months ago after the team was at the bottom end of the Brazilian championship. Without work, he was called for from many parts to take over Brazil.
It remains to be seen whether he can put Brazil on the right track for the World Cup. In 2002 he had an incredibly talented generation of Brazilian players that included Cafu, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. While this generation is surely talented it remains to be seen whether Scolari can bring out the best of them, and whether the best of them will be enough to give them the World Cup title they are longing for.
All eyes are on Luis Felipe Scolari.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The cruel fate of Di Matteo

Last March Roberto Di Matteo became interim coach for Chelsea at a moment when the Londoners were in crisis. Within a few months he guided Chelsea to the FA Cup title and to their first Champions League title ever. Within a few weeks he was no longer interim, but permanent manager. Now, barely six months after taking Chelsea to the greatest triumph in its history Di Matteo has been fired after some disappointing results. They are "only" third in the Premier League and are struggling in the Champions League were Juventus' 3-0 win over them sealed Di Matteo's fate.
A cruel fate, to be hailed and then fired within the same year! And one has to doubt whether this is not a too hasty decision by Chelsea's management: Di Matteo may have given rapid success, but he had a strong team, where there have been changes since last season (they lost their star player, Didier Drogba!). One would think that a manager needs time to build up a competitive team!
But no, short-term thinking is the rule in Chelsea, just as it is in other teams that think they can buy quick success, and where loyalty only reaches to their wallets.
There are rumours now about a new coach. Rafa Benitez has been mentioned, but in some places only as "interim" if Chelsea can get hold of Pep Guardiola.
I think everyone is "interim" in Chelsea.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stop crying

FC Nordsjaelland lost 2-5 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, but the most talked about thing about the match was a goal Adriano scored at the score 1-0 for the Danes, when he picked up a ball that was supposed to be returned to the Danes after fair-play situation.
Of course it is totally against the ideals of fair-play what Adriano did. But it is not against the rules. You cannot be sentenced for being an asshole, but you can for doing something illegal.
Perhaps FC Nordsjaelland should be thankful: they can complain that they were cheated so that everyone can forget that they got their butts kicked!

Valencia and Bayern Munich through

In the economic crisis Valencia has been in for years they need any penny they can get, so to get as far as possible in the Champions League is part of this.  In the CL Group F they were today playing at home against Bayern Munich. A tie would put both teams through as Bate Borisov lost to the last-placed Lille at home, diminishing their own chances to go through. With a victory, Valencia could even look at winning the group, so it was a disappointing start to the game as Valencia's first real chance only came 30 minutes into a pretty lame match, where both teams at first seemed happy with a tie. However, when Antonio Barragan got a red card for Valencia, it seemed that 10 men played better than they had before! Fifteen minutes from the end Valencia went ahead on a goal by Sofiane Feghouli, and understandably Valencia celebrated like crazy. But only a few minutes later Thomas Muller equalized for Bayern.
Valencia could still go through on first spot by defeating Lille and hoping Bayern does not defeat Bate Borisov at home, but that seems unlikely, and Valencia should just be delighted to be in the next round to keep those Euros flowing in...

Monday, November 19, 2012

MLS Western Conference final

The MLS Western conference second leg final yesterday saw the Seattle Sounders, in front of a great crowd in Seattle, win 2-1 over the LA Galaxy. However, this was not enough, as Galaxy had won a resounding 3-0 victory in the first leg that puts them in the National final to defend their title from last year against the same team as last year, Houston Dynamo.
LA Galaxy was nevertheless a disappointment in the match against Seattle. They came to Seattle to defend, which could make sense, but without Landon Donovan they seemed like a very ordinary team against Seattle, who in the first half came out to attack, knowing nothing else counted. In the first half they were leading on a goal by Eddie Johnson, who even had another goal erroneously annulled for off-side. When Zach Scott brought the Sounders ahead 2-0 they were dominating so much that everyone would be excused for expecting Seattle to make a third.
But two things happened. First, Coach Bruce Arena put the Brazilian Juninho in on midfield, and he suddenly gave LA Galaxy much more dynamism in the counterattack and more defensive depth.
The second thing was the referee...
It is sad that a referee takes center stage in such a game. He made a lot of small calls that favoured Galaxy, but in the end it was an absolutely scandalous penalty call for Galaxy, which Robbie Keane scored on (Galaxy's great player of this season also scored two goals in the first match). This took some air out of the Sounders while giving Galaxy renewed confidence. In spite of attacks by Sounders they were disappointed, and Galaxy should send flowers to the referee.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

For Zlatan!

Sweden inaugurated a new stadium in Stockholm, Friends Arena, with a friendly match against England tonight. But in this inauguration one man took all the attention: Sweden's superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There has never been doubt about his quality, although sometimes he can be petulant and lazy. But tonight his talent was extraordinary. With all four goals in their 4-2 victory, he almost singlehandedly gave Sweden the victory. His second goal, where he took the ball down with the best while running and hammered it in was a brilliant piece of skill, but surely everyone is talking about his fourth goal, where he did a spectacular bicycle kick from 30 meters out. Besides the skill, it was a bit lucky, you have to grant him that, but a great player is the one with the confidence to try such a kick! Ibrahimovic is having a great season in Paris St. Germain as well, and one has to wonder if Zlatan is not, indeed, the best striker in the world at the moment! 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Great Celtic

Even though Celtic play in the world's most boring league, their victory today against the leaders of the world's second most boring league was truly impressive. Because no matter how you turn things, FC Barcelona are a much better football team than Celtic. But the beauty of football is that sometimes David beats Goliath. Two weeks ago Celtic were close to tying Barcelona away, and it was some of the same tough, defensive style, with good counterattacking, that gave them today's important victory, that puts them ahead of Benfica to take the second spot in the group. In other matches of this round of the champions league, Real Madrid tied 2-2 at home to Borussia Dortmund, who are set to take the first spot in the group, where Manchester City are on their way out after 2-2 at home to Ajax Amsterdam. While Manchester City were dreadful in the first half they were rightfully angry with the Danish referee who cheated them for a goal and a penalty in the second half, favouring a Dutch side full of Danish players.