Posts Tagged ‘samuel eto’o’

Master Tactician Alex Ferguson comes out of the Mestalla with a 1-0 win.

I grew up in an era of attacking football. Being a Real Madrid and La Liga supporter, I had the privilege of seeing Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, and Ronaldo playing together and picking teams apart with no mercy; while their relinquished defence saw the ball go into their net on a few occasions. They never seemed bothered when they let in goals. Their philosophy was one that read ‘We’ll just score more goals than you’.

That same era we witnessed the ‘Super Depor’ team which had Juan Carlos Valeron, Djalminha, Mauro Silva, and Diego Tristan. It was a team that beat Milan 4-0 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League to play another entertaining La Liga team at the time, Valencia. That era was the most dominant that La Liga has ever been in Europe and one that was pleasing to the eye. It seemed like ‘Joga Bonito’ had stamped out ‘negative football’ for good.

Football goes through phases. The era of flair and gung-ho offence is dormant for the time being. In the past year, we’ve seen defensive football emerge from it’s slumber (it was actually always there, but not everyone used it, and it wasn’t always successful).

Last season we thought Barca was unstoppable. And then we realized that the only way to beat them was to pressure them high and keep the defensive shell compact. That’s exactly what happened the two times they were conquered last season. Rubin Kazan did it in the Camp Nou in the group stages of the Champions League (ironically, they held Barca to a 1-1 draw today in similar fashion), and then Jose Mourinho came to the Camp ‘Mou’ and played some of the most unattractive yet efficient games of football I have seen to knock Barca out of the Champions League.

One month later, Vicente Del Bosque and Spain started their quest for their 1st ever World Cup trophy. La Seleccion this year is virtually Barca 2.0. It’s literally FC Barcelona plus Casillas, Ramos, Alonso, and Capdevila. The amazing thing is that Del Bosque took this team and totally changed it from the style of play that Pep Guardiola has Barca playing. He dropped Torres, and inserted a second DM -Xabi Alonso- to accompany Sergio Busquets. A simple switch that completely changes the system. Spain went from being an attacking team, to one that builds and solidifies at the back while trying to snatch a goal somewhere and then killing the game off with their possession.

Needless to say, La Roja went on to win the World Cup with a team that focused more on defensive stability than attack. This was evident as they won their last 4 games of the tournament by 1-0.

Mourinho - Impressive at the back

Jose Mourinho has Real Madrid playing more defense than they’re used to, but it seems to be working. Last night Mourinho decided to play with three defensive midfielders – Lass, Alonso, Khedira – against 17th placed Ligue 1 side Auxerre. A formation that is unheard of in Real Madrid. Mourinho’s philosophy is one that emphasizes defensive organization. To his defence -no pun intended-, Real Madrid has been playing the best defence I have ever seen them play, and although they aren’t scoring as much, I’m sure the goals will come eventually. They have to. Especially when you have Higuain, Benzema, Cristiano, Ozil, Di Maria, Pedro Leon, and Canales in attack.

My only criticism of Mourinho thus far is his obsession with playing Karim Benzema at the right wing position. It’s a position that destines Benzema to failure. He’s most lethal when he’s closest to goal, and at that position he occupies valuable space that Di Maria and Ozil could be filling. I’m sure Eto’o understands Benzema’s frustration with his comment today after his hat-trick and Inter’s 4-0 win over Werder Bremen:

“I’m happy to win as a striker after winning as a defender last season,”

And finally, a surprising ending happened at the Mestalla today as Manchester United grabbed a 1-0 win over Valencia. After literally attacking Manu for 80 minutes and coming close to scoring on several occasions, they found themselves losing the match after Manchester finally broke out of their defensive shell late to score the only goal of the game. If there ever was a ‘perfect game’, Sir Alex came pretty close today. He had United lined up fantastic defensively and Valencia found it hard to penetrate the great partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic. The more Valencia pushed, the more Manchester absorbed, and just when it looked like Valencia might score, Ferguson came up with two genius substitutions bringing on youngsters Javier Fernandez and Federico Macheda. The later was the architect who set-up Fernandez for the winning goal. It was a lovely move that can be seen here.

So what is the answer? Is a defensive approach more efficacious than an attacking approach? There is no clear answer. What’s evident is that football goes through phases and different coaches are successful with different tactics. That’s the beautiful thing about football, every team plays differently and some of the most beautiful matches can come from two teams who have completely contrasting styles of play.

Defensive football = Attacking football.

Ramos and co. didn't really try. But it was enough.

 

There are some worries in the Spanish National camp as the reigning European champions don’t look as focused as they did last summer. ‘La Furia Roja’ struggled to beat non-World Cup dwellers Saudi Arabia 3-2 in Innsbruck, Austria  on Saturday.

The Saudi’s surprisingly went up 1-0 in the 16th minute as Osama Hawsawi headed in a corner that Spanish keeper Iker Casillas failed to punch clear. 14 minutes later, Barcelona striker David Villa scored to level the match. At the half, the Saudi’s looked more impressive than the Spanish.

After the half-time break, Spain came out with more sloppy play; and although Xabi Alonso gave Spain the lead in the 57th minute with a precise shot from outside the box, Saudi Arabia leveled the match in the 73rd minute with a freak goal which deflected off of Al Namare and past the helpless Casillas. The game ended with substitute Llorente heading in a Xabi Alonso corner in virtually the last kick of the game to give Spain the 3-2 win.

It’s clear that Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque needs to have his team more focused when the World Cup comes around. Although this Spanish team is much deeper and better on paper than the one that won the Euro (inclusions of Pique, Valdes, Pedro, Llorente and Navas are fantastic) they do not look as sharp. Former Euro winning coach Luis Aragones formed an organized cohesive unit which we haven’t really seen under 2-time Champions League winner Del Bosque. The ‘moustache’ as they call him, is still awaiting the return of 2 of his key players in Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres from injury.

International Friendly results and highlights organized for viewing for your pleasure:

Spain 3-2 Saudi Arabia

Ireland 3-0 Algeria

Slovakia 1-1 Cameroon

Serbia 0-1 New Zealand

Sweden 4-2 Bosnia Herzegovina

Ukraine 3-2 Romania

Hungary 0-3 Germany

USA 2-1 Turkey

England 2-1 Japan

Belarus 1-0 Korea Republic

Paraguay 2-2 Ivory Coast

Gambia 1-5 Mexico

Nigeria 1-1 Colombia

Tunisia 1-1 France

Chile 1-0 Northern Ireland

Other Results:

Norway 2-1 Montenegro

Moldova 2-3 UAE

Poland 0-0 Finland

Iceland 4-0 Andorra

Azerbaijan 1-3 Rep. of Macedonia

Venezuela 1-1 Canada

Milito: Quite in form these days.

 

 Diego Milito with two moments of brilliance to steal the show and lead Inter Milan to their first Champions League trophy since 1965. 

Let’s be honest. Nothing against these two European giants, but these were not the two best teams in Club World football. Regardless, Inter Milan deserved it. And yes; you can take that as a contradictory statement if you like. 

It was one of the most unnatractive finals a neutral eye has witnessed in years. Bayern’s only threat came from Arjen Robben (who by the way, would be one of the best players of his generation if he didn’t have health issues), and one man isn’t enough to get past the best defence in the World. Maybe Inter’s style was not the prettiest to watch, but we have to give credit to them for several reasons. 

Mourinho has made Inter Milan the most organized team in World football. There is no doubt about it. I truly can not remember the last time I was able to see such alignment, unity, and defensive perfection in a team. In my opinion, this is the best defence the World has seen since Italy’s Euro 2000 team which had Cannavaro, Nesta, and Maldini. But the bewildering thing about this team, is that Mourinho didn’t have 3 World Cup legends in their prime at his disposal. Having said that, he took World Class players and made them more. He made them champions. He took Wesley Sneijder, who couldn’t even control a damn football at Real Madrid, look like a World Class organizer who created a beautiful transition from midfield to attack. And just to be sure, if anything ever got past the back line, Julio Cesar (probably the best goalkeeper on Earth right now), would miraculously save anything that might have gotten through. 

Javier Zanetti: Legend

 

  It was hard to see the majestic Estadio Santiago Bernabeu flooded with red, black, and blue yesterday. But if there’s one man I can allow to lift a trophy in that Temple, it’s Javier Zanetti. He is a true legend of the game. One of the best right backs of all time, and a class act both on and off the pitch. He deserved it. It’s an absolute shame that Diego Maradona is crazy enough not to not take Zanetti, Cambiasso, and Samuel (and then take Heinze). Ridiculous really. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he dropped Milito after his brilliant performance last night. 

A shame for Inter and it’s fans though that they will not be the same team next year. The architect: Mourinho, will be a Real Madrid coach next season (more on that in a sec), and he will probably take Maicon with him and Sergio Ramos will be moved to a CB. But Congrats to Internazionale.. Enjoy the moment! 

Regarding Mourinho.. He doesn’t hold back in press conferences does he? What a guy. Check out 9:45: 

The Champions League has finally arrived. It was a long summer without meaningful football but that wait is over now. All 32 teams have finished playing their first match, and what an interesting matchday it was. Let’s get started.

Everyone knows Manchester Unitedare severely weakened since Ronaldo’s departure, but they did manage to hold off Besiktas in Turkey last night for a 0-1 win. Turkish fans are known to be some of the craziest in the world; and instead of highlights, I would rather post this clip of a high quality amateur video of the Besiktas fans during kick-off:

Ac Milan proved that they should always be a contender for the Champions League, no matter how much of a crisis they’re in. After all, they are the second best team of all team after Real Madrid. Milan put together an impressive display in Marseille and pulled off a 1-2. This is not AC’s best year by any means. First they lost Kaka, then got hammered by Inter in the derby 4-0. They also have a completely washed up Ronaldinho who doesn’t even start anymore, and an ageing team of Nesta, Gattusso, Pirlo, Inzaghi, Seedorf and co. It’s no secret that they will be fighting with Marseille for second place in this group, and they most definitely took a big leap towards that goal with their win last night. Inzaghi adding to his European tally with 2 goals while ex-Real Madrid defender Heinze got Marseille’s lone goal. Great atmosphere:

Real Madrid make it look easy. Well, they had a 5 minute scare against FC Zurich, but other than that, they just put it on cruise control and ate the Swiss team apart. The game was in Zurich, but it seemed like quite a few Madridista’s were in the stadium, and they overshadowed the Zurich fans for large parts of the game. 3-0 at half-time, and 5-2 the final score. Watch these highlights in full; because this Real Madrid team is unbelievably fun to watch. Oh, and look for the sexy black jerseys with no sponsors:

Atletico Madrid continue to struggle. Their trend as of late has been much of the same: lots of clear cut chances but no win to show for. Their lack of finishing has really been hurting them. A shocking 0-0 draw at home today to tiny Apoel. Check out all of the chances they had. It’s unbelievable:

Undoubtedly the most intriguing game of matchday 1 was Inter – Barcatonight. Zlatan returned to Milan while Eto’o went up against his old team mates in this clash of two giants of European football. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a snooze fest for the neutral eye as the game ended 0-0. Barca had the ball all day passing it around with plenty of possession, while Inter were forced to sit back. But at least they defended well, and Samuel and Lucio were phenomenal at the back.

Arsenal left it late tonight after a shocking start against Standard Liege:

The other scores from matchday1:

Group A
Juventus 1-1 Gir. Bordeaux
(Iaquinta 63′; Plasil 75′)
Maccabi Haifa 0-3 Bayern Munich
(Van Buyten 64′, Mueller 85′, 88′)

Group B
Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United
(Scholes 77′)
Wolfsburg 3-1 CSKA Moscow
(Grafite 36′, 41′ pen., 87′; Dzagoev 77′)

Group C
Ol. Marseille 1-2 AC Milan
(Heinze 49′; Inzaghi 28′, 75′)
FC Zürich 2-5 Real Madrid
(Margairaz 64′ pen., Aegerter 65′; C. Ronaldo 27′, 89′, Raúl 34′, Higuain 45′, Guti 90′)

Group D
Atlético Madrid 0-0 APOEL Nicosia
Chelsea 1-0 FC Porto

(Anelka 48′)

Group E
Liverpool 1-0 Debrecen
(Kuyt 45′)
Ol. Lyon 1-0 Fiorentina
(Pjanic 76′)

Group F
Dynamo Kiev 3-1 Rubin Kazan
(Yussuf 71′, Magrão 80′, Gusev 86′; Dominguez 26′)
Inter Milan 0-0 FC Barcelona

Group G
Sevilla 2-0 Unirea Urziceni
(Luís Fabiano 45′, Renato 70′)
Stuttgart 1-1 Glasgow Rangers
(Pogrebnyak 18′; Bougherra 77′)

Group H
Olympiacos 1-0 AZ Alkmaar
(Torosidis 79′)
Standard Liège 2-3 Arsenal
(Mangala 2′, Jovanovic 5′ pen.; Bendtner 45′, Vermaelen 77′, Eduardo 81′)