my most intense sport moments of 2010

notice that this is a personal list of how i perceived this year’s sport events. the most intense sport moments of 2010, in chronological order.

february 16, whistler (canada)

anastasiya kuzmina from slovakia had won the first gold medal of the olympic games in female biathlon, just two seconds ahead of german star magdalena neuner in her first olympic games. but right in the beginning of the pursuit race, neuner passes her rival and increases her advantage after two error-free shootings to an incredible advantage. in the fourth and last shooting, neuner makes her second mistake and kuzmina has a perfect shooting, but it is not enough -12 seconds advantage at the end give the young bavarian her first ever olympic gold medal.

february 21, whistler (canada)

in the 12.5 km mass start, only 13 of the 30 starters make a mistake in the first shooting – and neuner is one of them. after her perfect second shooting, she was now in 8th place, still dreaming of a medal, but another mistake in her third shooting made it look tough. thanks to a perfect fourth shooting and her incredible pace on the slopes, magdalena neuner manages the incredible and wins her second gold medal – an even more exciting race than the one five days earlier.

march 9, fiore (italy)

in a cold, windy day, the people from fiore were all there, seemingly. it was the greatest day in football for this italian town, that had had european glory, but never in the main competition, the champions league. to eliminate bayern would be their biggest success ever, and the players knew it; bayern couldn’t control the wind or the opponent, and early in the second half, fiorentina were up by 2×0. mark van bommel managed to score a lucky goal at the mark of 60 minutes, but the dream of extra time vanished only minutes later with jovetic’s second strike against a desolate defense, 3×1. the italians looked like the certain winners now, but just a minute later, arjen robben silenced the crowd with an incredible masterpiece of a shot. with luck and robben, bayern were through to the quarterfinals.

march 24, gelsenkirchen (germany)

what a semifinal match between schalke and bayern for the german cup. the kind of 0x0 that lifts the soul, good football and very nerve breaking. but even with the stress in the weeks before, and with only a few minutes to play in extra-time, arjen robben takes the ball, dribbles passed five people and concludes with a perfect shot – the goal of the year, and once again such a decisive one!

march 30, munich (germany)

it didn’t look good at all for the home team. rooney had scored an early goal, and bayern were trying to get the best possible result since then; they dominated the match, but weren’t able to convert their advantage into goals; only ribéry was able to score a goal against the favorites and 2008 champs, and that goal only came in the 77th minute. in stoppage time, the 3-minute mark was coming close as mario gomez won a ball against rooney in midfield and somehow got it to the united box, where evra lost orientation for a second and olic scored the most exctiting goal of this life. incredible! 2×1 and munich now had a chance!

april 3, gelsenkirchen (germany)

schalke against bayern – the decisive match for the title race in the bundesliga, where felix magath’s team could’ve made a great leap towards the title with a simple victory over their pursuers. bayern, though, scored twice in the first half, conceded a goal and got a red card very early in the game. but they were able to play the match so well and united that schalke did not have one goal scoring chance in the second half, running away with the victory and, finally, with the leadership in the table.

april 6, barcelona (spain)

lionel messi wrote his name in golden letters that evening. historians might call this the greatest performance ever by a football player, in history. against arsenal fc in the quarterfinals of the uefa champions league, messi’s game was near perfection even without scoring a single goal; but he scored four, after arsenal had scored the first goal of the match. 4×1 final score, four messi goals in a perfect night for the argentinian, who marked his name as the best of the world – and applied for the “best of all time” category, although he’ll need a world cup victory to state that claim.

april 7, manchester (england)

what a day. manchester seemed to show that olic’s last-second goal wouldn’t matter at all. they demonstrated modern, fast and agressive football in the first 45 minutes, scoring three goals even without a good rooney (but with a great nani), and even olic’s goal right before the break didn’t seem to change that fact. in the second half, bayern were more present, but still found it difficult to score what would be a decisive 2×3. but they did: corner kick ribéry, volley from 20 meters by robben – perfect goal, a third all-decisive goal of the year for the incredible dutch! after that, bayern controlled the game and manchester had no answers. olic’s goal from the first leg was worth gold, after all.

april 28, barcelona (spain)

the last ten minutes of fc barcelona’s semifinal second leg match against internazionale milan were some of the best sporting minutes of the year. inter had held  0x0 for a long time, and they could lose 0x1 and still advance to the final; but after piqué scored a beautiful goal, the nou camp became an inferno for the italian team (playing without a single italian player); attack after attack rolled onto julio cesar’s goal, and some luck was involved, mixed with a lot of talent. in stoppage time, barcelona scored for the second time, which would see the holders of the title advancing to the final. but the goal was disallowed, and inter advanced. what a match!

may 15, berlin (germany)

what a match. bayern played almost perfect football in the german cup final against holders werder bremen. beautiful, efficient, dominating, fast. 4×0 was the final score, and the second title was in the sack for bayern; trully a great moment for louis van gaal and his football philosophy.

may 22, madrid (spain)

the uefa champions league final was too important to really be a fantastic game. bayern had the ball possession, inter the wit and experience; diego milito and wesley sneijder made the difference on the positive side, daniel van buyten and martin demichelis on the negative one. 2×0 to inter, in a game that seemed more like a 0x0.

may 30, istanbul (turkey)

in the most exciting championship race in history, race 7 had everything to be spectacular. mark webber and sebastian vettel led the pack with equal points but more wins for the australian, who had just won monaco. alonso had 75 points, only 3 points behind the duo, and button had 70, with felipe massa at 61. lewis hamilton, the most spectacular driver of the year thus far, wasn’t even in the top five. and it was a battle between red bull and mclaren, between webber (pole man) and vettel, between hamilton and button. and between all four, who were racing on similar pace through the circuit during most of the race. vettel an edge faster than the leading team mate, and with hamilton pressing him. so he attemped a pass, encouraged by his mechanic – but webber didn’t know of it, closed the door, and the two drivers crashed. vettel was out, webber still managed third, but the race was not over; in sight of the red bull drama, mclaren advised their drivers to “save fuel”, in other words, hold positions. hamilton thought he was okay, but button still attacked him and passed with an incredible move. hamilton was determined not to let that happened and answered in specatular fashion. incredible! great race, and hamilton now emerged in third place in the standings – two places ahead of vettel, with mark webber still leading the pack.

june 11, johannesburg (south africa)

a pretty good opening match, but what  a goal by tchabalala, to erupt the stadium and the hearts of all african people. a singular moment in this sport year.

june 13, durban (south africa)

finally the world cup gets started in terms of quality. germany plays a perfect match and impresses the whole world with its incredible speed and light way of playing, a new kind of “beautiful game”. 4×0 against australia, who didn’t lose after that and had a good world cup in 2006. mesut özil, now at real madrid, appears to the world for the first time, even without scoring a goal – that’s how well he played.

june 23, london (england)

john isner against nicolas mahut. no one could have guessed that this might have been one of the most exciting moments in tennis history, but it was. round 1 in wimbledon, court 18. the match had started one day earlier, with four sets completed and a fifth set in need; darkness was the reason for the ending of the playing that day. basically what happened is that the american and the frenchman played the whole day and still didn’t find a winner between them, due to the rule that you have to outscore your opponent by two games in a grand slam fifth set match, no tie breaks allowed. 59-59 was the astonishing score after that day, and for the second time, darkness impeded that match to be concluded. the match was concluded a day later, with an incredible 70-68 scoreline.

june 23, pretoria (south africa)

another american victory on the same day, and what a victory: landon donovan’s deciding goal in stoppage time was one of the most deserving lucky strikes in this sports year and in any fifa world cup. the us had been denied a couple of decisive goals and would face elimination without the life-saving strike by the american soccer star.

june 24, johannesburg (south africa)

the reigning champions are eliminated in last place of their group, after a gripping second half in the match against slovakia, who qualified for the knockout stage with an incredible 3×2 victory – many beautiful goals, lots of drama and an italian team playing like it should have during the world cup only in the last 10-15 minutes. the typical too litte too late.

june 26, rustenburg (south africa)

asamoah gyan is a world cup star. he had a great group phase, but his decisive and beautiful goal against the us team kept african dreams alive, and it was in extra time after a 1×1 tie during the match. one could feel the whole continent united supporting the black stars.

june 27, bloemfontein (south africa)

arguably the best soccer match of the year. the first half was the best half of football i can remember watching, mostly because of the incredible performance of the german team in the first 35 minutes (and their 2×0 lead, more than deserving) and the great english performance after the 1×2, including the disallowed goal by frank lampard, the answer the the wembley-goal from 1966. germany shook, but didn’t fall. england’s pressure was on in the beginning of the second half, but after one of those incredible and fast moves, germany scored with müller. 3×1, and shortly thereafter, 4×1, again müller. a pitty that i watched that game by myself.

july 2, port elizabeth (south africa)

brazil had impressed me and the whole world with their focussed performances in the group phase. it was a different brazil, a more intelligent brazil, but a much less beautiful one. against chile, one could only come to the conclusion that this team could only beat itself, and that it wouldn’t. so brazil were favorites against holland, not only by tradition. and the first half was a demonstration of the new brazilian way of playing: very firm in the defensive midfield, combative, efficient and cool. the 1×0 advantage could have easily been a 2×0, holland had not even seen julio cesar in the match. but the brazilians beat themselves; a goalkeeping error by julio cesar, very rare indeed, enabled an own goal by felipe melo later credited to free kicker wesley sneijder. melo saw the red card after the whole team had become nervous, and the game was now gone. the netherlands dominated the second half and won the game, 2×1. brazil was out, and the country didn’t even care too much about it. a sign of how the public viewed the “new brazilian football”.

july 2, johannesburg (south africa)

what a match between ghana and uruguay, and what dramatic moments at the end. muntari had scored a beautiful goal right before the half time break, but forlan equaliezed in the beginning of the second half. ghana were stronger in he first half, uruguay had a better second half. but ghana was the team pressuring the south americans in extra time, and then it happened. after quite a lot of confusion in the uruguaian box, a defender saves from an shot, and a header is fished out of the goal by uruguay star attacker luiz suarez. red card, penalty, but no decisive 2×1 right before the penalty shootout. asamoah gyan could score it from the spot – but the ball hit the aluminium and went out. drama was not over, more penalties were one the program now. this time gyan scored, but two of his team mates didn’t – africa cried, uruguay celebrated – mostly bad-boy suarez.

july 3, cape town (south africa)

i’d watched argentina’s 3×1 win over mexico and was not impressed. no tactics, only talent. a lot of talent, sure. but enough to beat germany’s beautiful and efficient fast-paced way of playing the game? after 2 minutes, shooting-star and world cup golden boot winner thomas müller answered with the first goal. bastian schweinsteiger played the match of his life, eliminating lionel messi from the game and even organizing all attacking moves. he played it like a true quarter-back, and the runners scored another 3 goals. 4×0, and title favorites maradona were out. germany had convinced the world that they can actually play the most attractive football on the planet, not only the most efficient one.

july 7, durban (south africa)

germany couldn’t play. spain didn’t let them. it was as simple as that. and when germany finally started to have a little chance after after almost 70 minutes, the spaniards found their goal – after a corner, with a header. the deserving winner with perfect timing and somewhat boring, but extremely exact and perfect passing style. efficient enough for he germans not to get into the game at almost any time.

july 11, johannesburg (south africa)

there were only two good things about the final: it was thrilling and the right team won. the football was pretty poor, the netherlands weren’t even try to play football most of the time, which is totally contrary to the country’s football history and philosophy. they played more german than the germans, and they could’ve won – robben missed the decisive goal twice. but spain was strong in the beginning and in extra-time, in the rest of the match they were only able o control the game. the goal by iniesta was deserving, the title as well; the best team won!

august 29, spa-francorchamps (belgium)

this has always been my favorite race (and i plan to watch it live next year), and it didn’t disappoint; at least not in the spectacle, which had vettel trying to win the race. he was the fastest on the track, once again, and as it was getting dry, he tried to pass jenson button; but he crashed into him, provoking widespread criticism. lewis hamilton won the race and took over the lead of the championship after 13 races, ahead of mark webber. at this point, it seemed that the two of them would decide the title race, but things changed quite a lot after that.

october 4, newport (wales)

a ryder cup final day on a monday was uncharacteristic, and it is not every time that the decision goes to the last hole. the young american zach johnson kept the us-hopes alive, and their great final day seemed to be able to produce a historical comeback after trailing by three points on sunday. at the end, greame mcdowell kept his cool under enormous pressure: the us open champ of 2010 beat hunter mahan and gave europe another title in this, the arguably greatest competition in golf.

october 10, suzuka (japan)

fernando alonso had won the last two races and was back in the title race after a great end-of-summer run. japan was the last chance for sebastian vettel to still run for the title, with hamilton also in front of him and webber leading the standings. and he had a simply superb weekend (just like a year earlier) to claim a fantastic victory in the land of the rising sun. kubai kobayashi gave his home crowd an incredible show and made five passing moves, making it his own personal show and finishing in 7th. vettel had now passed hamilton, but alonso was still ahead of him – and so was leader and team mate webber.

october 24, yeongam (south korea)

the championship leader had held on to his lead without winning any of the previous four races, but this time, his nerves cost him the top spot. after a mistake, he crashed out and tried to take then-second placed fernando alonso with him, but actually hit nico rosberg. vettel now was the virtual leader, since he completely dominated the race; it would have been his first championship lead of the season, the sixth man to do so. but it was not to be, since his motor failed and alonso went on to win the race and become the runaway championship favorite. with only two races to go, vettel was a race victory (25 points) behind, webber only 11 points – a team order seemed the logical strategy for brazil and abu dhabi. but that also was not to be!

november 7, são paulo (brazil)

the podium was vettel, webber, alonso. which was curious in this order, since alonso remained on the top of the standings, only needing a second place in the emirates to win his 3rd title. but webber was denied the team order privilege, since his team mate still had slim chances himself. so vettel won an exciting brazil race, and went into the final race having to leave team mate webber and alonso behind him – and not only that!

november 14, abu dhabi (emirates)

vettel cries. he’s done he impossible, and thanks the team for the opportunity to do so. he wins the race, webber finishes back in 8th (worst race of the year for him), alonso in 7th. schumacher has a frightening accident right at the beginning, ferrari ignores rosberg and petrov going to the box (i’d seen it all along!) during that safety-car phase, and their second mistake is to “mark” webber, who goes early into the pits after hitting one of his wheels. alonso goes to, worried to lose his spot in front of that red bull, and gets stuck behind petrov. vettel wins with luck and superb driving, after a year of some mistakes and lots of bad luck. and he cries. the youngest f1 champions ever, what a career so far!

november 28, london (england)

what a year it had been for rafael nadal. although there was no nadal x federer final in a grand slam, in 2010 (the first time this had happened for quite a few years), nadal had won the last three slams and is going for a “false” grand slam in australia, to make it four in a row, but not in the same year. nadal finally met federer in the atp world tour finals, the inofficial world championships of tennis. and federer taught the spaniard a lesson of who still hasn’t given up on the dream of coming back to become number one – and maybe even winning the grand slam itself. after this superb match, 2011 can come in the tennis world!

here some high class tennis, maybe the best there has ever been:

my personal top five moments:

5- ivica olic scores the winning goal for bayern munich against manchester united in the first leg, seconds from stoppage time.

4- arjen robben scores a spectacular volley to eliminate manchester united in old trafford, making olic’s goal count.

3- lukas podolski’s 2×0 against england, a fantastic goal as an example of the new german game (great work by thomas müller) and virtually eliminating the until then astonished englishmen, traditional rivals.

2- sebastian vettel passing the finish line in abu dhabi and, half a minute later, realizing he’s the world champion, breaking into tears.

1- arne friedrich’s goal against argentina, eliminating the gauchos with the 3×0; bastian schweinsteiger’s brilliant assist was the reason, and of course the tension breaking after another incredible performance of the best german team that ever played.

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after group stages: best 50 european clubs!

the group stages are over, and a few interesting things become evident: out of the twenty best clubs in european football history, 19 qualified for europe ate the beginning of the season – and three of them are now out! juventus turin even had to let ac milan pass them in the all time ranking, loosing their spot as best italian team in the 56 year history of european football. atletico madrid won’t defend their title in the europa league, after failing to progress through the group phase, and celtic glasgow even failed to reach the group stage phase in that competition. in february, we’ll have a look at the clashes in champions league and europa league. here, just a quick top 50 ranking, based on the seasons 2006/07 until the current one; teams with a * are still in the run for a european title this year.

50. standard liege (bel)

49. az alkmaar (ned)

48. spartak moscow (rus)*

47. osc lille (fra)*

46. sporting braga (por)*

45. ajax amsterdam (ned)*

44. juventus turin (ita)

43. ca osasuna (spa)

42. fc paris saint-germain (fra)*

41. vfb stuttgart (ger)*

40. rsc anderlecht (bel)*

39. fulham fc (eng)

38. fc copenhagen (den)*

37. bayer leverkusen (ger)*

36. espanyol barcelona (spa)

35. celtic glasgow (sco)

34. olympiakos piräus (gre)

33. panathinaikos athens (gre)

32. villarreal fc (spa)*

31. fc schalke 04 (ger)*

30. fenerbahce istanbul (tur)

29. dynamo kiev (ukr)*

28. tottenham hotspur (eng)*

27. ac fiorentina (ita)

26. girondins bordeaux (fra)

25. glasgow rangers (sco)*

24. cska moscow (rus)*

23. olympique marseille (fra)*

22. sporting lisbon (por)*

21. benfica lisbon (por)*

now the top twenty, with a few comments:

20. zenit st. petersburg (rus)*

were present in 4 out of 5 seasons, won the uefa cup in 2008.

19. psv eindhoven (ned)*

played every season in europe, best result in 2007 (quarterfinals champions league).

18. atletico madrid (spa)

played the last four season in europe, and for the second time they don’t play after the winter; reigning europa league champions.

17. valencia fc (spa)*

last five seasons in europe, best result in 2007, a quarterfinal in the champions league.

16. hamburger sv (ger)

not in europe this year, but two years in a row in the uefa cup / europa league semifinal right before this season.

15. real madrid (spa)*

5 seasons, 5 times eliminated in the round of 16, last year against lyon (who they will play again in february).

14. fc porto (por)*

every season in europe, a quarter final appearence in the uefa champions league in 2009.

13. sevilla fc (spa)*

second best spanish team, but since their two uefa cup wins in 2006 and 2007, not too much productivity.

12. shakhtar donetsk (ukr)*

have completely taken national control from dynamo kiev, won the uefa cup in 2009.

11. as roma (ita)*

number three in italy, but best results in the last five seasons are four and five seasons ago (quaterfinals in the champions league).

10. olympique lyon (fra)*

in france, their domination ended, but in europe, they reached the semifinal of the champions league for the first time earlier this year.

9. werder bremen (ger)

a final and a semifinal in the uefa cup in the last five years, and always in europe; but the current season was by far the worst one.

8. ac milan (ita)*

since their champions league title in 2007 they’ve never reached the quarterfinals again – maybe this season?

7. arsenal fc (eng)*

a semifinal, two quarterfinals in the last four tries… not too bad, but arsenal wants the champions league title at some point.

6. internazionale milan (ita)*

reigning european champions, but in the three seasons before that, round of 16 eliminations.

5. bayern münchen (ger)*

finalist last year, quarterfinal before that, semifinal uefa cup before that – pretty good, but bayern wants more.

4. liverpool fc (eng)*

europe’s number four, england’s number three;  champions league final in 2007, a semifinal in 2008, a quarterfinal in 2009 and 2010… and this time in the europa league. doesn’t seem like progress.

3. chelsea fc (eng)*

when will they finally win the champions league? two semifinals and one final in the four seasons before the current one.

2. fc barcelona (spa)*

people think they are the best in europe, but in the last five seasons, they’re just number two. one title and two semifinals in the last three seasons give a positive tendency.

1. manchester united (eng)*

2007 semifinal, 2008 champions, 2009 finalist, 2010 quarterfinal; the record of the best team of the last seasons.

landon donovan – a disgrace to the soccer-loving country of america

landon donovan was considered the 13th most important personality of 2010 by the onion.
read this direct quote from their website on http://www.theonion.com/articles/landon-donovan-a-disgrace-to-the-soccerloving-coun,18624/.

in a year when so much went wrong for america, one would be hard-pressed to find a more tragic event than the beloved u.s. national team’s elimination from the 2010 world cup. the humiliating loss—which left millions of enraged citizens rioting in every major city—was universally blamed on disgraced team captain landon donovan.

 

number 13 on "the onion's" list of 2010 personalities...

after the u.s. team won its group in the first round, an estimated 300 million americans, widely known as the most fanatical soccer fans on the planet, shuttered local businesses, declared a holiday from school, and even closed down the new york stock exchange to watch the second-round match against ghana, only to see their collective hopes dashed by donovan’s subpar play. mass burnings of landon donovan effigies and widespread looting ensued, forcing president barack obama to declare a state of national emergency.

despite receiving thousands of death threats and a personal warning from the state department urging him to stay off american soil until order could be restored, donovan returned to los angeles and was shot 172 times in the chest, head, and feet by an unknown number of assailants—a crime that remains unsolved to this day as police refuse to investigate.

donovan’s decomposing corpse still hangs from the marquee at grauman’s chinese theatre in hollywood, where hundreds of passersby spit on it each day.

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 17:47  Leave a Comment  
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thomas müller – what a career!

 

thomas müller has had quite the career so far...

the day is friday, august 15, 2008. jürgen klinsmann is bayern munich’s new coach, but the team is having some injury problems right in the beginning of the season, after a pretty successful euro 2008 for the germans. bayern had played the uefa cup in the previous season, for the first time since the 1998/99 season – and they’d lost in the semifinal against tymoshchuk and his zenit st petersburg. klinsmann was supposed to give the team some new inspiration after the end of the second ottmar hitzfeld era. that era ended with tears for the old “general”, tears of emotion at his and oliver kahn’s departure. klinsmann came to make all things new.

but on said friday, the first matchday of the brand new bundesliga season, some players were still not fit, and others are injured. klinsmann invites 18-year old thomas müller to sit on the bench. lucio still plays for bayern, so does zé roberto. toni kroos is younger than müller and hasn’t moved to leverkusen yet, and lukas podolski is still at bayern. all of them start in the season opener, at home against hamburg. schweinsteiger and podolski, germany’s best known friends at the time, score for bayern, but hamburg ties the game before an hour is over. 2×2 seemed like a pretty unsatisfying result. klinsmann reacts – after 79 minutes, miroslav klose goes out, and thomas müller comes in.

thomas who? another young talent to fail at bayern, or one oif the few who make it? he didn’t really make an impression in his first bundesliga match, and he didn’t play for the the first team again until his much more memorable appearance almost seven months later; bayern thrashed sporting lisbon 7×1 at home in the champions league round of 16, and müller came in at the end, assisting to a van bommel goal a minute after he entered, and scoring the last goal of the evening. this time, fans and media had noticed him somewhat.

 

louis van gaal and his protegee thomas müller, early in the 2009/10 season.

klinsmann was soon sacked, and former bayern and real madrid coach jupp heynckes took over for the remaining matches. he too gave thomas müller some playtime, in the two final matches, decisive for bayern’s ambitions to clinch a champions league spot and even rally wolfsburg for an unlikely title. thomas müller was made a pro (he was a regular and a goal scorer in the amateur team) and began the new season under louis van gaal as the number five striker.

van gaal was not the first one to see the talent – klinsmann and heynckes had played müller in some big matches, despite his young age. but he was the first one to bet on it, and after just a couple of weeks, müller was the favorite to play the “10” position schweinsteiger wanted – and so did ribéry and josé ernesto sosa. it became clear that van gaal was totally convinced of müllers exceptional talent: he played him as a “10”, as a right winger, as a left winger, as an attacker – müller was put in every position but the bench. he started every single game under van gaal, in cup, champions league or bundesliga matches. and he trully showed his value, even at such a young age (19 to 20). his momentum was so incredible that müller only played once for the national team before the world cup, in a friendly against argentina. maradona, the gaucho coach, even thought that the guy next to him in the press conference was some ball boy. how ironic, since it was müllers 2nd minute strike against argentina which defined the coach’s destiny.

 

müller scores for germany in the world cup 2010, where he became the golden boot winner.

müller played and played. he won the german cup, scored 13 goals in his first real bundesliga season from the right midfield position (and inumerous assists added to that), and after the quarterfinal against argentina, one of the main discussing points in the brazilian media (!) was thomas müller missing the semifinal due to a yellow card, and germany’s lesser chances against spain because of it. that’s what i call a career on the fast lane!

thomas müller came back for the 3rd place match and scored the first german goal, winning himself a trophy last won by gerd müller, his name-buddy and former coach in the amateur team: the golden boot of best striker of the world cup was his.

he got it today. congratulations, a physical evidence of his fast rise to the top.

 

müller with his golden boot, alongside forlan and casillas, who also won prizes from fifa.

by the way, everyone was curious to watch him play in his first match for bayern after the whole world cup and incredible first career season, where the lad got to play a champions league final! if you haven’t gotten the chance to see his goal against wolfsburg in the first matchday of this bundesliga season, check this out. two years after his appearance in he bundesliga opener, he produces this after only 8 minutes of new season football.

 

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 15:32  Leave a Comment  
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fifa club world cup – a pretty bad joke!

rafa benitez, when he was still welcome at internazionale; now, not even the fifa club world cup might save his job!

internazionale milan is in a little bit of a crisis. the reigning european champions have slipped in the serie a, and their latest display on international grounds was an embarresment to the team – a 0x3 loss in bremen, a match i actually attended. italian media reports that not even a fifa club world cup title will save his job. fifa club world cup? what was that again, many europeans might ask. if you go to south america, though, people know pretty well what that is. a quick look into the history of this competition will make this discrepancy clearer.

once upon a time, europe decided to create continental competitions to figure out which teams were the best in the continent. it all started with the first european cup in 1955, now known as uefa champions league; the idea was to play a knock-out tournament with all the current national champions parallel to the new season; away and home matches would decide the progression of a team, and the final was held in a neutral place to crown europe’s true champion. the uefa cup (at the founding time called inter-cities fairs cup) started a few years later, and the cup winner’s cup (now extinct) only in the 60s. but generally, a the team winning the european cup was viewed as the best team in the world.

pele for santos and eusebio for benfica - the 1962 final of the newly founded intercontinental cup.

south america couldn’t have that. their teams had a great tradition on their continent, and by 1958, south american nations had one three of six fifa world cups. while real madrid was winning the european cup every year, being considered the world’s best seemed arrogant to south american clubs. out of that feeling came the idea to create the “copa libertadores”, a competition who’s one goal was to define the best club in south america, and then to compare that club to the best one in europe. notice the historical difference: the european cup was designed to find the best club in europe, while the libertadores cup was clearly designed to defy the idea that european clubs were any better than south american ones. this is the reason why, until today, the intercontinental cup (our european-south american cup, as it was known for many years), taken hostage by fifa and now named fifa club world cup, is the maximum title a south american player can aspire for, if he plays for a south american club. for the europeans, that will never be the case, since their goal is to win the european cup, now called the uefa champions league.

the new intercontinental cup, now called world cup; the old one had europe and south american engraved...from an objective point of view, this already poses a question mark over the whole matches. Until 1980, away and home matches would decide the european-south american champion, often referred to as world champion. but many teams from europea wouldn’t bother to actually play those matches, since there was little to no prestige in it for them. after tokyo took over hosting and sponsoring, europeans always went to play the match – but more for the incredible amount of money than for the chance to defend european glory. so how can you take a match seriously, when the only way one side will give it some commitment is if you pay them enough to do so? with the other side so eager to win, based on sports merits? at times, a south american club would arrive in tokyo a full month earilier, while the european team would fly in after a league game on the weekend, just a couple of days before the match.

and nothing has really changed. while some teams hire players for that one match (and pay a lot of money for it), basically no european country will even broadcast it live. rafa benitez, stumbling head coach of uefa champions league winners internazionale, has been told that even a victory in fifa’s competition will not really improve his chances of not getting sacked – incredible for south american clubs!

when there was no real money involved, only the south americans really took the matches seriously. until 1970, giants like real madrid, milan, internazionale and benfica actually played the matches, but with little success. there is some merit to be given to teams like santos, peñarol and such, and at the end of the decade (and first 11 matchups), south americans had won six. looking at it objectively, though, this only seemed to confirm european superiority. but it led many south americans to believe that the football played on their continent was at least of the same level as in europe.

internacional, from porto alegre, brazil, will probably reach the final today; they've one the cup once, a few years ago against barcelona.

this impression was confirmed in the 70s, but it was nontheless a false one. european clubs really didn’t see the point in spending money to play a game they didn’t have the motivation for; and the trophy was little aprecciated even by the fans. it was always viewed as a nice bonus, but not really important. ajax won the european cup three times between 71-73, but only bothered to play one intercontinental final, where they beat independiente from argentina; from 74-76, bayern munich won the title in europe, but only played once, too: against cruzeiro from brazil, taking the prize. the lack of interest by the champions gave clubs like panathinaikos athens, atletico madrid and even borussia mönchengladbach a chance to play for the title. 1975 and 1978 the matches were cancelled alltogether, liverpool and bayern munich didn’t show any interest, and neither did anyone else. in 1979, nottingham forrest didn’t go, and malmö ff took over. even with these stories and juventus not wanting to play the match in buenos aires after losing 0x1 at home to independiente, europe won 3 of 7 duels. once again a pretty bad record for the south americans, if you look beyond the surface.

finally toyota came into the scene, helping uefa and conmebol to make the match more attractive to europeans. money was now involved, and one match instead of two also helped motivate europeans, who were now incentivated by uefa to go and do some good marketing for football, in asia. if you look at it from a sports point of view, you were taking the match away mostly from the south american fans, who actually cared. but if europeans were to take it more seriously now, so be it. after all, the motivation was still the same: to show europe where the best football was being played.

grêmio, another club from porto alegre, will be rooting for internazionale. becayse if the brazilian inter beats the european one, grêmio will have a "world title" less than internacional; by the way, they won theirs against hamburg, in 1984.

the new constellation meant that south americans were still playing for maximum honor, while europeans were motivated by some extra yens. and so, nottingham forrest, who had refused to play in 1979, took a plane to tokyo and lost to nacional. what followed delighted the south americans: 7 out of the following 9 finals were won by them, nacional uruguai even won twice. what had caused this big advantage? well, finally the passion for that particular match was paying off. preperation for tokyo were often weeks long in japan for these south american clubs, while europeans would normally arrive a day before the match. audiences would watch the match in the southern hemisphere, while no live coverages were shown in europe. basically, the europeans were picking up their checks, and were motivated purely by the fact that south americans were so extremely motivated. after all, no one wants to lose a match.

since 1995, the second time i ever watched this match (the first time was also in brazil, with brazilian participation in the final), the table has turned somewhat. in terms of results. interest is still extremely low on the old continent, not a single tv station had live pictures from last year’s final (who played whom again??); but the money and marketing involved are increasing, and that’s due to the professional money makers from fifa, who had not been involved with this competition at all. until today, fifa consideres the first club world champion to be the winner of their first ever such tournament, won by corinthians – a team that has never even won the libertadores cup! and the greater joke was that manchester united, the 1999 uefa champions league winner (dramatic final against bayern), didn’t want to play the tournament. they’d played the intercontinental final (which still existed) and won it (as most europeans were, after 1994), and now they would have to either play fifa’s new tournament or the fa cup. it is obvious that both club and players preferred to play first round fa cup action than this stupid tournament in brazil’s hot summer.

fifa’s tournament was an embarresment for everyone envolved, the title match being between two brazilian clubs (none of them had even recently won the libertadores cup). real madrid and manchester united showed a clear lack of interest, and fifa would not try again until 2005. the intercontinental cup was still alive and running every single year, until fc porto beat once caldas in the last japonese final. in those last 10 years of japan, europe won the title seven times. it’s not a coincidence that this started after the bosman ruling and the invasion of south american players in european top leagues – they were historically motivated to win the that title, even if they were now making the opposite point.

fifa wants money, so fifa started organizing the "fifa club world cup". a sad affair.

fifa had now basically bought the right to be exclusively responsible for crowining the world club champion. all confederations sent their title holders, but up to now, europe and south america have always played the final. this should probably also happen next sunday, when internacional (bra) and internazionale are expected to play the final. and the only people really caring will be either the population of the south brazilian city porto alegre, and the inter fans for their own; and the internazionale fans mostly in south america. once again we’ll see images which show seemingly sad players from the italian club after losing, and brazilian fans saying “see, they do care about he match”. this sentence says it all.

the fifa club world cup (which used to be called “fifa club world championship” but had it named change to sound more like the much more important “fifa world cup”) is a money-making scheme where only one club really desires to hold that title in their hands. the big joke of the tournament is that the fans from grêmio porto alegre, internacional’s city rivals, will be rooting more for internazionale milano than the interisti themselves. that says it all! and the joke is also on fifa, who are selling the tv rights to the dubai spectacle at such high prices that europeans are still not interested in buying them.

and the last joke might be on the spaniard rafa benitez; the might be the fifa world champion and lose his job just a few weeks later. which makes it pretty clear: even if south american club football were better than the european game (a point no true specialist would dare to make), the intercontinental cup or the fifa club world cup wouldn’t answer the question. instead, ask yourself how many of the players participating in the world cup quarterfinal this year played in european clubs. and how much of the tactics in that world cup was inspired by south american leagues.

european club football will always be better south american club football, just as the uefa champions league has a much higher quality than the copa libertadores. and more and more south americans are admitting this. i do admit it was less clear in the 60s and 70s, but even then that was true.

manuel neuer – a legend in the making

young manuel neuer, in 2006.

march 27, 1986, manuel neuer was born. in germany. in the city of gelsenkirchen. that’s where a special football club comes from, fc schalke 04, one of the two best supported teams in germany. at the age of four, neuer already started playing for his home town club; up to his teens, who would defend all the youth teams of the club, and watch the bundesliga matches from the stands. at the age of 20, already as a professional player, he finally made his debut for the first team, substituting the injured frank rost. when the experienced goalkeeper returned from injury right in time for the home match against bayern munich, neuer retained his position and was allowed to play. his brilliant performance guaranteed a 2×2 tie in that match, and neuer had just become the starting keeper. frank rost, widely considered one of the top five keepers in germany for many years, would leave the club, and neuer was already seen as a future number one for the german national team, since jens lehmann wasn’t getting any younger.

 

neuer in action, 2009

since then, manuel neuer has had a few weeks of bad form, but mostly memorable performances and important matches. it seems that when the pressure is the highest, neuer gives his best performances. in the champions league against fc porto, in a season when schalke reached the quarter finals (2008); for the sub-21 german national team during the euro 2009 won by germany and having neuer as their mvp; or, more recently, for schalke against bayern, holding the gelsenkirchen club in the match in a fantastic first half by bayern munich, and even assisting in the first goal. even in the recent world cup, manuel neuer, who inherited his deserved number one position from a rene adler injury and a tragic robert enke suicide, did a pretty good job; a little bit of a mistake against serbia, but some great performances against ghana, england (where he assisted to klose’s first goal), argentina and spain.

neuer is on the way to becoming the world’s best keeper – a title currently belonging to iker cassillas, but still somewhat up for grabs. the brazilian julio cesar has been outstanding for internazionale, another brazilian (gomes) was considered the best goalie in england, and the young lloris, goalkeeping for lyon and france, are in the running. but the now 24 year old manuel neuer has a great future. and he deserves to spend some time of his career outside of his hometown. in england, maybe? or in munich? the decision should be announced in the next few months.

but right now my advise is for you to watch the round of 16 match involving schalke, in february. it doesn’t matter against whom, but you’ll probably understand what i’m talking about when you see neuer at work. his great qualities, besides the obvious one-to-one situations and great reflexes, are his “footballer qualities”, his precise long passes and long throws, his calm personality and his increasingly good antecipation. he’ll be the german number one for at least another decade, and he will be the world’s best goalkeeper by the time the next world cup is played.

in love with gold-lena…

a love affair with a country... lena and germany.

… well, not really. but you gotta love that cute little blondie, with those blue eyes seeming to explode of joy and life. actually, germany is currently in love with two lenas. one is still a teenie, from north germany, brunette. the other is in her early twenties, blonde, from bavaria. and i think that the country’s love will last longer with the latter.

you must understand that germans love wintersports. every weekend, there are hours of live events on tv, and not on some secondary channel. the two official tv stations ard and zdf can bring up to 16 hours per weekend, live! bobsled, alpine skiing, long skiing, ski jumping, nordic combination, speed skating, curling, the luge – you name it! but one sport has really made it to the center of attention: biathlon, that seemingly strange combination of cross-country skiing and shooting a gun. well, if you look at it, it’s not so mysterious where a sport like that might have come from. and it’s pretty damn exciting to watch. since germany has had pretty good success, it has become very popular over the last three decades.

first world championship, three gold medals! the birth of "gold-lena"...and the popularity is still growing. thanks to “gold-lena”. it’s actually pretty simple: you are a star if you are successful in what you do, and if people are paying attention to what you do. like cristiano ronaldo in the sport of football. but you are loved if people like what you say and don’t say in those interviews before and after a competition. and how you say it. this makes lena neuner a beloved star.

her sporting successes make people at least wanting to love her, anyway. magdalena neuner was 19 when she first competed in a biathlon world cup season, which is made out of racing weekends (similar to formula 1) with various competitions. she won her first race before turning 20, and in her first biathlon world championship (a competition only surpassed in importance by the winter olympics), she won three gold medals.

 

lena in shooting position during this year's olympic games.

germany had a new wunder girl. and, what made it even more appealing, she was short, very cute, always smiling with her face and her eyes, very natural in interviews and simply lovable. simple, from a small winter town, with no intention of becoming a star or a socialite. just the way germans love to like their stars. the last time they loved someone from the sports arena in a similar way must have been with steffi graf, who was arguably less cute!

what would the young woman do in her second season? well, she won the overall world cup (comparable to a f1 world championship after all the races), as the youngest woman to do so in history. and in the world championship (held every year), she won another three golds, upping her tally to six overall.

 

a trully golden smile!

don’t think for a moment that this is an easy feat; in biathlon, it’s actually really tough to win races. the shooting is what adds the spice, with different sorts of punishments for errors (normally having to do one extra round for each shooting mistake). To win every weekend is basically impossible because of that, but to be amongst the best constantly is possible and a true sign of quality. lena’s third season wasn’t as successful as the first two, and she wasn’t able to defend her title as the overall world cup champion. so she somewhat had a nice story going on for her before her first winter olympics, held in vancouver earlier this year. would she be able to come back? would she be able to get a few medals, maybe even a gold?

lena neuner would. and she did. two golds and a silver made her one of the big names in the games, and probably the biggest name in german sports, for the year. just to keep the comparison up, neuner’s olympíc games are even more significant than vettel’s first f1 title. she will probably win the vote for germany’s sport woman of the year, after winning that for the first time in 2007; vettel is in the running for the men, but might not win it.

 

... and so the story continues...

don’t get me wrong. germany really likes vettel. he’s young, straight-forward, has a good sense of humor and is down-to-earth, and very successful. but there is a slight difference: germany really loves lena neuner. because she has all of that, and she has that smile and those eyes.

neuner just started the defence of her 2010 world cup overall title, her second after 2008. she didn’t race in the first weekend, because she had the flew; and germany missed her. now she’s back, slowly finding her form. this weekend, she led the german team to win first place in the team event, and germany was reminded once again why they’d fallen in love with her only four winters ago.

this love affair will last.

 

Published in: on December 12, 2010 at 14:19  Comments (1)  
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world cup history: the dutch philosophy

history of the world cup. 19 tournaments from 1930 until 2010. the [sports] observer will take a look at this long and rich history by looking at the top ten nations in the history of the tournament. and we’ll start with the dutch.

actually it’s pretty incredible. the whole country has a population around five million smaller than the metropolitan area of são paulo, brazil’s largest city. how can a country with only 16 million people have such a rich story in football history? and how rich is that history, after all?

 

it all started with a genius: johan cruyff, a legend both for ajax amsterdam and fc barcelona, was the mastermind behind the dutch football philosophy

actually, it started only in 1970. ok, holland played in the two pre-second world war worldcups, but that was pretty much everything. the oranje have played a total of nine out of nineteen world cups, only two before 1974; and they were still favorites to win that tournament, a phenomenom never observed since then. what had happened?

november 26, 1969. the second round of the european cup had their round of second legs. the round of sixteen, and feyenoord rotterdam were playing ac milan for an unlikely place in the quarterfinal. the 0x1 defeat in the north italian city didn’t seem that tragic, but it was the italian champion, always a favorite to reach the semifinals, at the very least. almost 64,000 people came to see the game, and saw history in the making, without realising it: feyenoord sent milan home with a convincing 2×0, surprising the continent. not that the dutch team was a total dark horse, they had been in the semifinals in the 60s once. and this time, they went to the final, after eliminanting the eastern german and polish champions, where they would face celtic glasgow. we know celtic as a traditional team today, but at that time, it was arguably the best team in europe. still, for the second season in a row, a dutch team had reached the final (1969 it was ajax amsterdam), and for the first time, they actually won it.

 

cruyff against vogts during the world cup final 1974 - tradition beat innovation

leading up to the 1974 world cup, dutch football started to completely dominate europe. in club football with five dutch finalists in a row at the european cup finals, and, foremost, four titles in a row (three times ajax after the feyenoord truimph). in international football, the reason for that success was starting to become visible, although the results weren’t quite there yet. yugoslavia eliminated the netherlands from the euro competition, but the dutch scored 14 goals against luxemburg in that group – against seven goals by the east germans and only two by yugoslavia. that was the philosophy: attacking and attractive football, variable and lively. all of that would have been impossible without the genius of johan cruyff, team leader and idea leader for ajax and the national team. the idea was that the players should not be limited to staying at a specific area of the field; the team should be compact and in constant movement, including the switching of positions during the game. this idea really became prominent in the 1974 world cup, when cruyff had already moved to fc barcelona. a world cup in the neighboring germany, their main rivals, would be interesting. cruyff was seen as the world’s greatest player, alongside the german franz beckenbauer, who played a similar role in the more “organized” german team.

the two teams did meet in the final of that tournament. and it was not as “modern x traditional” or “liberal x conservative” as it might seem, but an important thing happenend. the dutch lost, but the idea didn’t. the small western european country had fallen in love with their way of playing football, it gave them an identity. and identity seeminlgy more important than big titles.

four years later, holland reached the final again – and lost to the host country, again, this time after extra time. but they were now a respected member of the world football community, with a whole country behind their efforts.

the world's best in the late eighties and early 90s: marco van basten, after scoring one of three goals against england in the euro 88

the dutch idea didn’t die, but you have to have the players to perform it. after cruyff left, the team didn’t have any success and failed to qualify for the 1982 and 1986 tournaments; in 1982, neighbors belgium, italy and even ireland were more successful. and in november 20, 1985, another decisive match took place for holland. against belgium, the only playoff to qualify, the 2nd leg match was at home. and after a 0x1 loss in brussels, the team was leading 2×0 until five minutes from time, when belgium scored the decisive goal, eliminating the dutch.

this was the beginning of the second era of dutch football. spectualar football, still, and the now world famous 4-3-3 dutch system was still in place; but new talent was now given a chance, and the trio frank rijkaard, ruud gullit and marco van basten started revolutionaring the old dutch game, adding mental and physical strength to the formula. holland won their first major title not even three years after the trauma against belgium, at the euro 88 in germany. the aforementioned trio was now considered to be top players in the world, and all of them were playing for ac milan, the best club in the world at the time. so 1990 seemed to look a lot like 1974, with the experienced germans and the new dutch team coming in as main favorites for the title.

 

gullit, here assisting to the goal of a century by van basten in the euro 88 final against ussr, was the captain of the promising dutch team or the 1990 world cup.

they met in a historical match in the round of 16, since holland wasn’t playing as well as expected and suffered in the group phase. in one of the most thrilling matches of world cup history, the germans beat holland with merit, after they had lost in the euro 88 semifinal. but netherland was back on the map, 12 years after their loss to argentina in the final.

and they proved it. new talent was arising every year, ajax amsterdam had some very successful years in europe under louis van gaal, and holland were probably one of the most exciting teams of the 94 world cup, losing in the quarterfinal to champions brazil after coming back from 0x2 to tie the game, and still loose it. but they lost in dutch style, and the idea of attractive football coming from the small flat country was still alive.

this idea gained new force in the 98 world cup, held in france. holland were the most exciting team and reached the semifinal after two thrilling knockout stage matches: edgar davids scored the winning goal against yugoslavia in overtime, dennis bergkamp had the most spectacular moment of his brilliant career two minutes from time against argentina, also a 2×1 win. and when holland tied the game five minutes from time against brazil, with a young patrick kluivert scoring the goal, the team finally seemed ready for a big title. one of the main tradicional problems in the dutch team was the seperation between white players and black players, and this wasn’t an issue in that 98 world cup. brazil went on to beat the dutch in the penalty shootout, but once again a whole country was proud.

bergkamp was holland's greatest player in the second half of the 90s, successful but without titles...

the idea of beautiful football was slowly starting to get on the nerves of dutch players. the home euro in 2000 was not won, and louis van gaal failed to qualify with the team for the 2002 world championship, by now a huge surprise. this more than anything showed that holland was rightly considered a power house in international football, but that failing to qualify started changing the idea of the beautiful game. dutch players wanted to finally win titles!

the 4-3-3 idea with two offensive wingers and less concentration on defensive work was starting to give way to a 4-4-2 system, more traditional and maybe more successful? the answer in the 2006 world cup was horrible for the players and, even more, for the fans. holland didn’t play their attractive football, and lost to portugal in the round of 16, in quite a violent match. the defeat wasn’t the worst thing, it was the way they played football. the experiment of “playing like the germans”, the more successful neighbors, was deemed unsuccessful, and fans, media and former players wanted the “dutch way”, the dutch football philosophy back.

and they got it back. the euro 2008, maybe the best football competition in history, saw holland play the way the whole world expects them to play. maybe only brazil has a similar global expectation, and everyone was glad when holland started out beating world champions italy by 3×0, and then france by 4×1. that was the holland everyone wanted. and in a very attractive match, the russians (led by dutch coach guus hiddink) beat holland in the quarter-final, a 3×1 after extra time. once again, the beautiful game hadn’t led to the title.

 

the current face of dutch football: wesley sneijder, ex-real madrid and now champions league winner with internazionale.

so holland played the german game in the last world cup. no attractive football, but this time they beat brazil in the quarterfinals and actually reached the final; but not as favorites. and, even worse for the dutch fans, not even as crowd favorites, since the spaniards were now known for playing beautiful football – much more than the dutch. that’s why this, the third defeat in a world cup final, was by far the worst. and, for many former players and journalists, the only worse thing would have been an actual world cup title, since that would have vindicated the now “ugly game” the dutch became famous for in the very violent final.

the tenth greatest football national in world cup history has to ask itself what it wants: to first play beautiful football and then win titles? or to win titles at any cost? this writer hopes that the dutch philosophy is revived, and that they may win a title with that. it doesn’t look likely for 2014, though.

team orders allowed in formula one

well, just a quick comment.

many people will disagree, but i do believe that team orders have a definite place in formula one, and they should. after all, there are teams! and they pay the bills! so they should get to decide what should happen in a race, whenever they can.

team order yes - but you gotta know how to use it, as did red bull.

that’s the second point: teams should be smart enough to make the best decisions for business. and truth be said, that will always be the best decision for the fans. if the fans watch and love the sport, the teams will get their money – it’s that simple. absurd usages of the team order (schumacher x barichello) are bad for the sport, the alonso x massa affair this year is tolarable (not for brazilian fans, though), and if vettel had helped webber, that would have been approved by most. red bull was the smartest this year, letting their drivers fight it out until the bitter end. it was risky, but even if alonso had gone to win the title, red bull would have been the moral winners all over the globe – in terms of adverstising, that matters quite a lot.

but once again, team orders should be part of formula 1, and teams should try to be clever about using them correctly.

Published in: on December 12, 2010 at 09:07  Leave a Comment  
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bayern münchen – the future can come!

 

another five years for schweinsteiger and bayern. great news for all bayern fans!

after the 3×0 win over st.pauli, this afternoon, bastian schweinsteiger took the microphone and announced to the fans that he just prolonged his contract for another five seasons. that was, by far, the greatest applause of the afternoon.

with phillipp lahm and bastian schweinsteiger, both players owned by bayern munich since their teens, two key players have not only declared their loyalty and love towards their home club. it is also a signal to europe: bayern munich wants to be not only a top team in europe, but the top team in europe. lahm could’ve gone to fc barcelona, schweinsteiger to chelsea or real madrid. but they decided to stay and be part of a team capable of reaching uefa champions league semifinals every single year. that’s their main motivation for not leaving the club.

and i believe they might be right. let’s look at what the future european champion might look like:

 

he wants to win the champions league too... better go to bayern, manuel neuer!

goalkeeping: manuel neuer seems to have agreed to move to munich for next season. neuer deserves a post for himself, he is most certainly the coming best goalkeeper of the world. number one in germany since rene adler’s injury and robert enke’s suicide, he’s had spectacular games and basically no mistakes, mostly against bayern last week. butt will probably move to management, talented number two keeper thomas kraft will probably leave the club, so bayern has to find a good number two.

central defending: he’s still being criticized, by i firmly believe that breno will make the race to become holger badstuber’s partner on the right side of the defense. badstuber, like schweinsteiger and lahm, plays for bayern since the junior team and will be a fixing point in central defense. breno, at bayern since the age of 18, is currently being tested and might just pass – i surely hope he does, since he has great quality, but needs to be more firm. daniel van buyten and martin demichelis are history, the latter might even leave the club in the winter. so new signings are needed, probably two.

 

just like schweinsteiger, lahm has a contract from 2016.

defensive wings: there is probably no right back in the world better than phillipp lahm, and he has another advantage: the captain of the german national team is never injured and always plays the full 90 minutes in very match. it could be a big blow for bayern if he is ever injured, since there would be no one to actually replace him;  new signing is needed there, someone young and who can play both in central defense and right back, ideally. the left side has been the problem since lahm moved to the right, but this season there are actually two players doing a great job there: daniel pranjic, brought by van gaal from holland, and diego contento, from the bayern junior team. no problems there, for the future (which should belong to contento).

defensive midfield: van bommel, the captain, and bastian schweinsteiger, the true captain, had a very successful season in 2009/10 on this position. but things have changed. schweinsteiger has been so effective that van gaal put him one position forward, and toni kroos has been playing in his place now. which i think is a great decision, mostly for kroos, who’s talent really florishes from that important position. van bommel, for me, is history and probably won’t get a new contract; anatoliy tymoshchuk should take over for van bommel, but maybe schweinsteiger will come back and become make up a german duo with kroos – who, yes, you guessed is, has been owned by bayern since his junior team days. daniel pranjic and andreas ottl are good options for the bench, so no real need for new signings.

 

ribéry has contract until 2015... and is getting back to top form!

offensive midfield: franck ribéry also has a 5-year contract, and he’s a star and starter on the left side. arjen robben has been injured all of this season, but was the player of the last season and will be a star and starter on the right side. schweinsteiger is playing in the middle, but if he ever moves back to his preferred position, thomas müller should take over that role – and he really can, another great talent, and, yes, at bayern since he was 11. altintop has shown to be a valuable player, but it is not known if he will get his contract renewed. toni kroos is actually an offensive player and could play any position, too. if another talent (maybe from the junior team) is added, that should be enough; mehmet ekici, currently on loan at nürnberg, would be a candidate for that. ivica olic can also play on the left wing.

attack: mario gomez. i’ve always had faith in him and he has been showing his importance for the team. he’s got another good 4 to 6 years in front of him, so he’s the number one; currently, klose is at bayern, but if he doesn’t want to be a bench player, he’ll have to leave. ivica olic is a great option, thomas müller can play the position, too. so bayern only needs replacement if klose leaves, and that replacement could come from the amateur team. let’s see.

this team could be a future european powerhouse, comparable to barcelona, real, and manchester:

neuer – lahm, breno, badstuber, contento – kroos, schweinsteiger – ribéry, müller, robben – gomez

with tymoshchuk, pranjic and olic really close to the first team.

to end this post, bastian schweinsteiger’s answer to the question why he didn’t want to go to real madrid:

[to the reporter] “let me ask you a question: for whom do you think i’d like to win the champions league, for madrid or here? this is my home, winning that title with this club would mean infinetely more to me.”

this is why bayern will have the strength to become great in europe again: players identify with the club because they just feel well there (robben, ribéry) or because they’ve played their since their teens (lahm, badstuber, breno, contento, kroos, schweinsteiger, müller).

Published in: on December 11, 2010 at 18:10  Comments (3)  
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