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.
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Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 18:33  Leave a Comment  
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germany’s football culture has changed

it was just germany x azerbaijan. a mere qualifier for euro 2012. but it was still a very important match for the fans of german football. and maybe, just maybe, for any football fan.

klinsmann is a symbol for the old germany: athletic, enthusiastic, soloist...

germany has been famous, over decades, for its efficiency. yes, there were some quite brilliant players, and some memorable teams; but it was the german physis, tactics, discipline and efficiency which took the national teams to 6 titles in euros and world cups, and inumerous 2nd, 3rd and 4th places in the biggest international tournaments.

in 2006, the german team showed first signs of a new, exciting way of playing the game; mostly, the round of 16 match against sweden comes to mind. but even the 2nd place in the euro 2008 couldn’t hide the fact that germany was playing like germany again… with a lots of will and strength, the final was reached; but netherlands, russia and spain were the teams getting the praise at the end. at the end, results count; but really memorable teams have a way of playing, a style that fascinates the world.

german teams are still united, but now they have a better playing philosophy...

i think it’s safe to say that spain did not fascinate the world in this world cup, and netherlands never really came close. actually, the dutch played quite a little like the germans. and the germans? they played… differently.

hungary in the 50ies, brasil in 58, 70 and 82; the netherlands in 1974. those teams played a special kind of football, each of them different from the other. 1986 is an exception, since it was maradona who was memorable, not the argentinian national team. and since that world cup in mexico, here has not been one team to really stand out and become memorable.

i can’t really say that this was the case for the first time in 24 years in “waka waka” land. it’s to early to judge. but a great team is developing, a team that might become as great as the spaniards are now – but even more admired and loved.

thomas müller is a symbol of the new germany...

the fact that i’m talking about the young german national squad seems surreal, but it is, nonetheless, true. beyond a doubt, the most exciting football in the last world cup was celebrated by the germans. it’s fast, vertical and risky on the attack, but envolves lots of running, positioning and discipline in the defense. “umschalten” is the word in german, to “change” the switch. when someone gets the ball, everyone else should be in offensive movement, and the ball should be played as fast and vertical as possible to the front. there is room for plenty of creativity and intelligent play, and there is room for mistakes; because of the organization and the traditional good goal keeping.

part of the new germany: now they have cacau, özil, khedira, boateng, podolski... so many nations into one!

even the germans were taken by surprise with the team. özil only really started to play for the team not even a year ago, müller played his first match in march of 2010, toni kroos had his debut the same day; schweinsteiger left the wings and only started to play in the central midfield position in the weeks before the world cup, and boateng had his first match october last year. everyone saw the potential, but no one could have dreamed of seeing it all really work well, at least in three memorable matches.

podolski is playing much better, with the company of özil and müller.

the victory against australia is underestimated. germany were the first team to shine in the world cup, and they completeley dominated australia; but not in a typical german way, but playfully, light, fast and dangerous. it could have been 8×0, easily. but even if it had been only 2×0, it was the way they played that was so different. by the way, australia beat serbia and tied against ghana… the germany game was their only loss. even in their loss to serbia, they played a breath-taking second half – with only 10 men; but no goals.

the matches against england and argentina are most likely the best a german team has ever played. spain plays the game of patience, of total ball control, of waiting and then scoring, of not letting the other team play. germany do not show such patience, they’re play is less mature, but more youthful – and nice to look at. in the old days, if you had one great combination of offensive passes, it was reason for great praise; now you can’t count them anymore, simply because it has become the philosophy to try, and try, and try.

klose scored two goals yesterday, one against belgium friday - he's playing much better football now, with the young fellows.

so yesterday’s match, the first one on home soil since the strange world cup events, was a looker. first of all, german teams have traditionally had problems against the so-called “smaller football nations”; a 1×0 or 2×1 was not a rare result, and the game was rarely interesting to watch. second, azerbaijan have shown that they are difficult to play, having tied in russia and even beaten the czech republic, all pretty recently. so normally there would be no reason to expect a goal festival. but this was the exact expectation, based on the world cup feeling.

and even under that pressure to perform, and even not at 100% after a short vacation: what we saw yesterday was a german team demonstrating that they will continue their path and have no intention to stop. many talented players are on the outside and want in. after the 3×0 half time lead, normally the second half would be a total bore, but the new germany attacks until he very last minute, no matter the score. klose scored the final goal in over time.

badstuber played a great game yesterday and looks like the future as a full back.

it is just good to know that something definetley is growing in german football. a team that has the potential to be memorable not for titles or dramas, but simply for a way of playing football. thomas müller, who didn’t have a good day yesterday, represents this new germany; only very few bayern fans knew him a year ago, and now he’s conquered the world. and: he is here to stay, for a long time.

talent, mentality, added to the team spirit, defensive discipline and the willingness to attack always, as much as possible, with everyone moving all the time and avoiding to commit fouls: this is the germany that might be considered memorable in years to come. the germany in 2010, and maybe the germany in 2014. the way is long, but yesterday proved that no one has the intention to change the direction.

germany and the world will be thankful. the 6×1 yesterday could only be the continuation of what started in the winter miracle of 2010…

time for european football – part one

the preliminary round is done with, the group phases will begin next week. some interesting groups have been drawn, and traditional teams will play some newly rich, unknowns will play famous sides, new stars will be born and olders will become legendary.

özil will have to prove himself at real madrid.

i will organize the uefa europa league groups and the uefa champions league groups based on the current rankings (considering the last four seasons in europe) and their historical rankings (since 1955). using simple maths, i will determine the toughest group. just a quick way to create an overview of this year’s competitors.

cl = champions league, el = europa league, (historical rank/current rank)

cl group g:

a star at the world cup, how will it go for "prince" at milan.

ac milan (5/8), real madrid (1/16), ajax amsterdam (10/48), aj auxerre (86/122);

you could argue that real hasn’t been in the quarterfinals for six years, ajax is not what they used to be; but this group has three of the best 10 clubs in history, which makes it the strongest group of all. milan has the best record in the last few years, and they just got prince boateng, zlatan and robinho to add to pato and ronaldinho… but real madrid, still without kaka but with higuain, cristiano ronaldo, özil, xabi alonso, khedira and casillas, are almost considered favorites. let’s see how josé mourinho’s and ibra’s rendezvous ends. ajax has luiz suarez, uruguaian world cup hero. this is the toughest group of this european semester.

here are the other groups, with their main stars:

cl group c:

nani might be a star this season, for manchester

manchester united (9/1), valencia fc (20/23), glasgow rangers (17/25), bursaspor (319/171) – not an easy group for the english giants, but they should go through. valencia are favorites for the second spot, but i think bursaspor will challenge them more than the rangers.

manu stars: van der sar (ned), evra (fra), ferdinand (eng), owen (eng), berbatov (bul), rooney (eng), giggs (wal), park (kor), hernandéz (mex), vidic (srb), nani (por), scholes (eng)

others: navarro (spa, val), j. sánchez (spa, val), soldado (spa, val), mata (spa, val), r. costa (por, val),  weiss (slk, ran), insúa (arg, bur), erdogan (tur, bur)

cl group f:

ramires showed promise in the world cup and should do well for chelsea.

chelsea fc (22/4), olympique marseille (29/28), spartak moscow (36/51), msk zilina (267/107) – chelsea is through, marseille will battle it out with spartak; i think the russians will go through.

chelsea stars: cech (cze), ivanovic (srb), cole (eng), essien (gha), ramires (bra), lampard (eng), benayoun (isr), drogba (ivo), mikel (nig), malouda (fra), zhirkov (rus), ferreira (por), kalou (ivo), terry (eng), anelka (fra)

others: l. gonzález (arg, mar), a. ayew (gha, mar), heinze (arg, mar), mandanda (fra, mar), ibson (bra, mos), saenko (rus, mos)

cl group a:

maicon is still one of the best players in the world.

internazionale (7/6), werder bremen (33/9), tottenham hotspur (34/35), twente enschede (100/68) – the defending champ, a current top ten club from germany, the strong brits – and the current dutch champions. this is tough, and even inter has to be careful. hotspurs, werder and inter should battle it out, enschede might decide it by taking points away.

inter stars: césar (bra), zanetti (arg), stankovic (srb), lucio (bra), eto’o (cam), sneijder (ned), muntari (gha), maicon (bra), cambiasso (arg), d.milito (arg), samuel (arg)

others: wiese (ger, bre), naldo (bra, bre), wesley (bra, bre), arnautovic (aut, bre), marin (ger, bre), hunt (ger, bre), silvestre (fra, bre), frings (ger, bre), almeida (por, bre), pizarro (per, bre), mertesacker (ger, bre), gomes (bra, tot), bale (wal, tot), lennon (eng, tot), jenas (eng, tot), pavlyuchenko (rus, tot), keane (irl, tot), van der vaart (ned, tot), gallas (fra, tot), modric (srb, tot), crouch (eng, tot), dos santos (mex, tot), defoe (eng, tot), landzaat (ned, twe), ruiz (cor, twe)

those were the first four of 20 groups, this series will have three more parts. stay tuned.