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 ballon d’or 2010: journalists wouldn’t have given messi the award!

in the spirit of the golden globes later today, i was having a look at the detailed votes for this years fifa balon d’or, won by my favorite lionel messi. for the first time, not only the votes of the world’s captains and coaches were taken into consideration, but also the journalist’s opinion, which i tend to see as the most exact one. i also don’t like the many votes coming from countries with no or little tradition in football, and maybe biased opinion (africans vote drogba, other small countries vote for the traditional best like cristiano ronaldo). so here, i present to you a more detailed look at fifa’s list, creating from it a fairer one, in my opinion. at the end, there were five clear favorites, garnering almost 80% of all votes.

forlan had a great world cup and a great european season right before that; he won the golden ball for the world cup's best player and has deserved be ranked the 5th in the world.

i picked out the votes of the captains from football nations that should have a say in this vote (i chose 48 nations), and this is the top ten based soley on their votes (5 points for first place, 3 points for second place and 1 point for third place).

10. cristiano ronaldo 9 points

9. mesut özil 10

8. didier drogba 12

7. xabi alonso 14

6. iker casillas 15

5. diego forlan 25

4. wesley sneijder 59

3. andrés iniesta 67

2. xavi 77

1. lionel messi 91

wesley sneijder was fantastic in this year's uefa champions league and had a great world cup, with two goals against brazil as high point. he came in 4th place in the official fifa vote.

well, the players clearly supported the idea of giving messi the prize. let’s look at the coaches from only relevant football nations. they normally imagine who they would like to have in their team, for whatever reasons. here are their top ten (considering 44 coaches):

9. david villa & xabi alonso 6

8. carles puyol 8

7. thomas müller 9

6. cristiano ronaldo 18

5. diego forlan 20

4. wesley sneijder 52

3. andrés iniesta 56

2. xavi 79

1. lionel messi 121

a very clear vote for messi, even clearer than that of the players. cristiano ronaldo gets twice the points here, compared to the players, and both thomas müller and david villa weren’t even mentioned by the players, but made the top  ten with the coaches.

barcelona playes the best club football of the world, spain is the best team in the world. iniesta and xavi are the heart of both teams; one is considered the best playmaker in the world, the other scored the world cup winning goal in the final against holland!

finally, here comes the list made by the journalists, who, as a job, evaluate the sport in the year and historically. let’s see wo they thought were the best ten in the world:

9. samuel eto’o & asamoah gyan 3

8. carles puyol 5

7. david villa 10

6. iker casillas 11

5. diego forlan 55

4. lionel messi 101

3. xavi 138

2. wesley sneijder 138

1. andrés iniesta 141

it is clear to see that the media weren’t really sure who to choose: sneijder was mentioned 46 out of 68 times, xavi had the most votes for first place (21), but iniesta would have a slim lead to win. messi is only fourth place in this vote, and almost everyone voted for three of the top five. this seems to be the most coherent list, to me.

he lost to germany with argentina, but was still voted the best by players and coaches around the world; only the media would have voted him 4th place, but he still came away with the win!

adding all of them together, this would be the final result for the fifa 2010 balon d’or:

21. miroslav klose (germany) 1

20. julio cesar (brazil) 2

19. asamoah gyan (ghana) 3

18. maicon (brazil) 4

17. cesc fabregas (spain) 5

15. bastian schweinsteiger & thomas müller (both germany) 11

14. didier drogba (cote d’ivoire) 13

13. mesut özil (germany) 13

11. arjen robben (netherlands ) & samuel eto’o (cameroon) 14

TOP TEN

10. david villa (spain) 16

9. xabi alonso (spain) 21

8. carles puyol (spain) 22

7. cristiano ronaldo (portugal) 27

6. iker casillas (spain) 27

5. diego forlan (uruguay) 100

4. wesley sneijder (netherlands) 249

3. andres iniesta (spain) 264

2. xavi (spain) 294

1. lionel messi (argentina) 313

maicon is the best brazilian (!), and six in the top ten are spanish players (!!) showing their supremacy in the world.

here a ranking by nation (in total, 10 nations were represented in these votings):

1. spain 649

2. argentina 313

3. netherlands 263

4. uruguay 100

5. germany 36

all in all, the combined vote of the ballon d’or (which used to be called european footballer of the year) and fifa’s world footballer prize is still not even enought, for my taste. i do think the right player won, but generally i believe journalists should have a greater say on who should be considered the best; the way to do that would be to give football nations more journalistic votes if they have more football tradition – it can’t be that there is only one english, german or brazilian journalist voting, compared to one of swaziland, uganda and french guinea!

lionel messi – my world’s best for 2010

he didn’t play in the champions league final and score the winning goals (that was his countryman diego milito).

he didn’t play in the world cup final. actually, he had a rather weak game when germany massacrated argentina in the quarterfinal, with a superb individual performance by his direct opponent, bastian schweinsteiger.

he didn’t score the two deciding goals in the europa league final, one of them in extra-time, score five goals in the world cup and be rewarded with the golden ball for the most valuable world cup player – that was diego forlan. actually, he ailed to score even a single goal in five world cup matches.

he didn’t win the champions league and play the world cup final, scoring and assisting in decisive goals in both competitions – that was wesley sneijder, the dutchman.

and of course, he isn’t a current world champion, even though he plays with some in football’s best club of the decade – those would be maestro xavi and world cup winning goal scorer andres iniesta.

so why would i still pick lionel messi as the world’s best player in 2010?

pretty simply put, because he is.

although under a huge amount of pressure, he played a pretty decent world cup.

he scores goals and passes the ball the way no one else can – and he does both things consistently, in high level matches.

he had what can argueably be described as the best single performance of a football player in the history of the game in a champions league quarterfinal match against arsenal fc.

now, take the 5-0 thrashing of fc barcelona over real madrid, the day before yesterday. messi, for once, didn’t even score, while david villa, world champion and 5-time goal scorer in the biggest tournament on earth, scored twice. and still, it was lionel messi who got the deserved attention – for a superb performance.

sneijder, xavi, iniesta, even milito, schweinsteiger and robben had a more successful year. and even cristiano ronaldo has had quite a run since the world cup, let’s admit it!

but don’t tell me any of them is better than lionel messi. not in 2010, and probably not in the years to come.

 

the best. simply.

champions league – day 1 roundup

quite a few stories could be told about the first round of matches in the 2010/11 champions league season, which will end in the holy lawn of the wembley stadium in around eight months. for me, the main story is unveiled by a look at the bernabeu stadium.

real madrid dream of the champions league title. they won the first five editions, another one in 1966; and then it took them 32 years to get back on top. in 98, jupp heynckes (today trainer at leverkusen) brought the title back home, after a slim 1×0 final victory over juventus and zidane. in 2000, the “galacticos” didn’t give valencia a chance, and lifted the trophy for the tenth time. and the 2002 triumph had zinedine zidane written all over it, with his beautiful goal deciding a game that was actually more leverkusen’s match. since then, no tenth title. last year, cristiano ronaldo, karim benzema and kaká were supposed to “force” the title to the bernabeu, but the final on their home ground brought winner josé mourinho, who has generally been seen as the main new signing of the madrileños. until sunday.

mesut özil was going to shine in the world cup, basically any german knew that. but that he is shining this bright in such a short period of time is almost dangerous – but it is a tribute to his class and talent. özil has brought more hope to the madrid fans and even sports press in two games than kaká and cristiano ronaldo in a whole season. on sunday and yesterday, josé mourinho took him out of the game minutes from time, just to give him his deserved standing ovations. and standing ovations for a single player in the bernabeu are rare, let again twice in a week. real madrid’s 2×0 had özil show his fast thinking, easy-looking technique and physical endurance showcased, and the public was enchanted. it is too early, but it would be a great beginning for a new era in the club.

here are some other shorter stories of matchday one:

  • scored two goals for milan: zlatan ibrahimovic.

    manchester conceded two goals in over time on the weekend to tie 3×3 with everton, and now not even old trafford could give them  much needed victory over the rangers. scotsman ferguson will be mad.

  • arsenal did what they do best: play on one goal even if the scoreline is 3×0 already. 6×0 sounds harsh, tough luck for newcomers sporting braga.
  • messi is back to being messi, helping barcelona to victory; and ibrahimovic, his ex-colleague, is back o deciding matches, this time for ac milan. is milan back? let’s see.
  • bayern were as dominant as they have been this year, in terms of ball possession. and müller & klose picked up where they left off at the world cup: the first with a beauty of a goal, the second with a goal of pure will and experience. no chance for as roma and a horrible performance by francesco totti.
  • champions internazionale had their problems in holland and did not come home with 3 points in their luggage – a little bit surprising, to say the least, since it wasn’t psv, ajax or feyenoord, but champions twente enschede.
  • wherever there is werder bremen, expect excitement: 0x2 at home to tottenham after 12 minutes, 2×2 already at the beginning of the second half – and a dozen of lost chances to seal the match. bremen’s back, tottenham scored their first goals and first point in their young champions league history.
Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 18:33  Leave a Comment  
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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)