why football is a special game (valencia 1×1 schalke)

 

messi might show some of his magic this evening, in london...

after a couple of months, finally the uefa champions league is back – the decisive phase is upon us, and great matchups promise great matches, like the one this evening between barcelona light (arsenal fc) and fc barcelona. be sure to catch that one, and hope for a messi and/or van persie show – or some great action from iniesta, villa, xavi, arshavin,  cesc fabregas chamakh and so many more. fabregas, who wanted to move to barcelona last summer, will be especially motivated!

yesterday, i watched a fascinating match between 500 million euro debt against 250 million euro debt. valencia c.f. played schalke 04 at home, raul played on spanish soil again. it was fascinating not because it was a great game (which it was not, although it wasn’t a bad game either), but it just shows who how this very specific sport is. after around 10 minutes of cautious play, valencia started playing with the confidence of five wins in six matches, this year. high velocity football with technical quality, extremely well organized as a team, not leaving any breathing time for the schalke defenders and midfielders. schalke seemed almost always late, and when the got a ball, it would be a matter of seconds for valencia to get it back. agressive pressing, concentrated passing and positioning – but only one goal by roberto soldado, who sat on real madrid’s bench for a long time because of raul (and, more towards the end, besides raul). 1×0 was not enough for valencia, and they deserved to be two up at least, even if  schalke striker klaas jan huntelaar did miss an incredible opportunity, showing off his horrible form of the past months.

 

raul was the hero in spain, yesterday.

the second half was even more frightening for the german fans in valencia, around 2000. schalke lost the ball even faster, metzelder in central defense and matip in central midfield were having a horrible game, and it seemed a question of time until valencia scored their second goal. and you already felt it in the air, after that it could be a catastrophe for schalke, and glory for valencia, just like their matches against bursaspor earlier this champions league season.

but after 65 minutes, lukas schmitz (young, inexperienced but talented left back who has having a terrible day) succeeded in a fast forward pass to the spaniard jurado (talented but sloppy, also having a bad day), who passed the ball to raul. perfect goal from an experienced attacker, literally beating the keeper and defender navarro at the same time and scoring the incredibly unfair equalizer.

the whole match changed.

in any other sport, a team like schalke would be down so far that this lucky, but still brillant punch could start a momentum leading to a change in the game, but it wouldn’t necessarily. but in football, it was as if the game restarted, with now less than half an hour to go.

valencia had invested a lot, and the 1×1 scoreline didn’t seem to compensate that effort. the legs became heavy and tired. they would not be able o produce any dangerous chances until the end of the match, even with chances being created. the physical force just left them, and the mental went with it. schalke was not strong enough a team to take advantage and actually win the game, which they would have, had they played a football even similar to valencia’s display in the first hour. at the end, 1×1 wasn’t even an unfair result, although no one would dare dispute the fact that valencia played much better than schalke.

that’s this strange game. now, 79,000 people will watch the second leg in gelsenkirchen, and schalke will be the favorite to advance to the quarterfinal – just because of one genius moment in the match.

that’s football, as they say.

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fifa nominates 28 players – choose your top 5!

this is a short post, hopefully with some comments and controversy on who you would pick for fifa player of the year and fifa coach of the year. here is the list of players, with their respective clubs and nationalities, and then the list of the coaches. PICK YOUR TOP FIVE PLAYERS (IN RANKING ORDER) AND YOUR TOP COACH, and justify your choices, if you will! I’ll start right after presenting the list:

Xabi ALONSO (Real Madrid, Spain)

Daniel ALVES (FC Barcelona, Brazil)

Iker CASILLAS (Real Madrid, Spain)

Cristiano RONALDO (Real Madrid, Portugal)

Didier DROGBA (Chelsea FC, Ivory Coast)

Samuel ETO’O (Internazionale, Cameroon)

Cesc FABREGAS (Arsenal FC, Spain)

 

the favorite? diego forlan, atletico madrid and uruguay

Diego FORLÁN (Atletico Madrid, Uruguay)

Asamoah GYAN (Stade Rennes/FC Sunderland, Ghana)

Andrés INIESTA (FC Barcelona, Spain)

Júlio CÉSAR (Internazionale, Brazil)

Miroslav KLOSE (Bayern München, Germany)

Philipp LAHM (Bayern München, Germany)

MAICON (Internazionale, Brazil)

Lionel MESSI (FC Barcelona, Argentina)

Thomas MÜLLER (Bayern München, Germany)

Mesut ÖZIL (Werder Bremen/Real Madrid, Germany)

Carles PUYOL (FC Barcelona, Spain)

Arjen ROBBEN (Bayern München, Netherlands)

Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER (Bayern München, Germany)

Wesley SCHNEIJDER (Internazionale, Netherlands)

David VILLA (Valencia FC/FC Barcelona, Spain)

XAVI (FC Barcelona, Spain)

 

The coaches are: Carlos Ancelotti (Chelsea FC), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Jogi Löw (Germany), José Mourinho (Internazionale/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabárez (Uruguay), Louis Van Gaal (Bayern München), Bert Van Marwijk (Netherlands), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC)

 

My Top 5 would be:

5- Bastian Schweinsteiger  – best performance by a single player in the World Cup (against Argentina), decisive in Bayern’s very successful year, and the boss in an impressive German World Cup team.

4- Andrés Iniesta – when he was injured, Barcelona got kicked out of the Champions League. But he came back to have a good World Cup with the decisive title winning goal at the end of it, to crown a spectacular career since he was a teen.

3- Arjen Robben – an MVP for Bayern and their great success in Champions League, Bundesliga and Cup, with lots of goals, assists and beautiful moments.

2- Lionel Messi – is still the best player in the world, and showed it quite a few times this year, including some really good World Cup performances.

1- Wesley Sneijder – decisive for Inter in the Champions League and for the Netherlands to reach the final. Lots of assists and goals in important matches.

I think FIFA might pick Diego Forlan, who had a great World Cup and scored both decisive goals in the Europa League final. And he would make a good choice, but I still wouldn’t have him in my top 5, because of the quality of my picks. Even a Xavi or a Cristiano Ronaldo are tough to keep out of the Top 5, even though the latter hasn’t had too much success with his teams, only personal success.

Coach: Jogi Löw – Mourinho will probably win, and he’s had great success with Inter. But Jogi Löw revolutionized the way  great football nation like Germany plays the game, and he did it in style, beating England and Argentina convincingly. The football played by his team was the most beautiful of the year.

Waiting for your Top 5 and Top Coach.

 

2010’s best player: who is it?

some might think: wait, 2010 is not over yet! why should we discuss this topic already?

i’ll tell you why: for the selection of football’s greatest player in 2010, the season is already over. traditionally, the national and european club competitions decide the trophy, it is the spring form that really counts, the time where trophies are handed out and stars or born or transformed into myths. and, of course, if there is summer football (this year it was more winter than summer), then that will decide the race even more.

so who is it? who has left their mark, and who has lifted those trophies? here a quick look of a possible top ten for the season.

xavi & iniesta, the dream duo in barcelona, and also at the world cup.

xavi

ok, fc barcelona lost to internazionale in the semifinal of he champions league, and we still have no defending champions in the champions league era. but xavi had a pretty good season and once again lead fc barcelona to the spanish title – and he was the maestro of a great spanish side, the true captain and boss in midfield. with his elegance and intelligence, he was one of the stars of the last world cup, and as world champion, he has a shot on the biggest price in individual football glory.

andrés iniesta

how long have we known him now? as a very young player always getting some playing time at barcelona, and showing his technical ability. iniesta was only a super-sub, now he’s the heart of barcelona and the spanish national football team. raul wanted to play, but iniesta took away that position – and he scored the decisive goal in extra time, to give spain their first world cup title. iniesta had a really good world cup, but was injured in the decisive phase of the champions league – a reason why barca didn’t defend their title?

messi tries to do his best against germany... wasn't his day.

lionel messi

he was already the best. there was no-one really near him before this historical night in april. fc messi 4×0 arsenal fc, maybe the best ever performance of any football player in a match of that magnitude, ever. am i exaggerating? then try to remember a counter-example. not even maradona against england in 86 played the kind of game that we saw from lionel. and until argentina’s 0x4 against germany, he was on his way to become the world cup star – somewhat surprinsingly, since his performances for argentina had never been impressive. no title this year, but messi was the main goal scorer in the uefa champions league season – and there was this incredible game against arsenal. enough for the 2010 best player title?

not his day, either... cristiano ronaldo after the match against spain.

cristiano ronaldo

maybe he has not shined the way he used to for manchester united, but cristiano ronaldo has been bery effective for real madrid, and one can speak of a all in all succesful first season. but he wasn’t able to avoid another real madrid waterloo in the champions league; in the league, even a record amount of points wasn’t enough to end barcelona’s reign. and the world cup will not be one of his fondest life memories, either.

wesley sneijder

what a season for the short dutchman! sent away from real madrid in humiliating fashion, sneijder went to the international looser team of internazionale. and he ended the season as a winner, saving inter from the embarrassment of group elimination in the last minute (ok, that was december of 2009), leading them to the title (and eliminating top favorites chelsea fc and fc barcelona) in the uefa champions league. with holland, he threw brazil out of the competition with this two goals and reached the nation’s third final; but he wasn’t able to avoid the third defeat…

sneijder & robben celebrate the victory over brazil, with kuyt.

arjen robben

he was a bit of an mvp, maybe even more than his compatriot. for bayern munich, which he joined after also being dismissed by spanish giants real. robben scored the decisive goals in the win-losses at fiorentina and manchester (both 2-3, but qualifying goals), and they were beautiful. even after injury in not in top form, he played a pretty good world cup and threw away the chance to be the star of the final, almost giving the netherlands an unjust victory in two occasions. but he did win the internationally growing bundesliga and the german cup (scoring another impressive goal in the semis), and he did reach the final with bayern munich.

quite a match for schweinsteiger against mascherano & co...

bastian schweinsteiger

what a change, from “schweini” of world cup 2006 and euro 2008 to schweinsteiger in 2010. louis van gaal, his dutch coach at bayern, has finally given him his favorite position in he center of the defensive midfield, and schweinsteiger payed it back – for bayern and for germany, who without doubt played the most impressive football in this year’s world cup. as robben, schweinsteiger almost achieved the treble, and he ended up bronze medal inner at the world cup. but he did have a memorable game, when germany beat argentina 4×0. surely, that was one of he best performances of a single player in a big match, this year.

forlan scores a goal against host south africa; that country will be a fond memory for he uruguain.

diego forlan

that was a pretty impressive season by the aging uruguaian superstar. he’s had some pretty good seasons before, but the europa league title with atletico madrid finally gave him some silverware to hold. to win a european title with such a traditional team is already big, and scoring both goals in the final, one of them the winning goal in extra-time, is even bigger. can that be topped? yes it can, by 5 goals in the world cup, a semi-final spot for uruguay (doing better than continental opponents brazil and argentina) and the golden ball as the best player of the tournament; the first one of the kind to leave the competition without medal. respect, diego!

hasn't scored for england in a year... but he had some great months earlier in 2010.

wayne rooney

up to the first quarterfinal match in the uefa champions league in munich, it seemed like a simple question. who is better, lionel messi or wayne rooney? the argentinian, current holder, was having another great season, but rooney seemed to make people in northwest england forget about “cr7” with great performances and a whole lot of goals, some of them spectacular and important. and in the beginning of he match in munich, he scored the first goal and seemed to move on into the direction of best player in the world. but in the last minute, he was injured, bayern scored the 2-1 winning goal, fergie let him back to early, and he has not reached his top form since. the world cup was his personal waterloo, not only the 1-4 loss to germany in the round of 16. but he was having a good season, and he was the number two man at the time.

two goals in the champions league final, decisive in all titles, historical treble with inter - that's diego milito.

diego milito

it’s possible that some people knew his brother gabriel, defender at barcelona, better than him, although he has always been a pretty prolific goal scorer. but he hadn’t played at a top team yet, until “the special one” mourinho called him to inter duty at age 31. diego answered with goals, quite a few, and many very decisive. diego milito scored the decisive goal that gave inter their fith scudetto in a row, he scored the decisive goal in the coppa italia final against roma, and he scored both goals against bayern in the uefa champions league final, making the difference in that match. unfortunately for him, higuain was the starter for argentina in the world cup, but it was still an impressive season for diego milito.

so, who is it? answer the poll, choosing up to four who you think would deserve to be called the best of 2010, at the end of the year. my votes go to diego forlan, diego milito, andres iniesta and lionel messi, any of these would have the merits to deserve the price…

who would deserve the best player award in 2010 (you may choose up to four)?

(polls)