"Football, bloody hell!"
The most decisive match of the year, much more than 3 points are at stake, the whole world watching 22 men fighting on the ground, and so on…Many clichés and trivialities surround this beautiful football game which involves a long-time rivalry prompted by social, politic and of course sporting subjects.
Yet, we should point out one of those phrases we hear over and over during the previous week – “no matter whether they are in or off form, when the times comes no one knows what will happen”. Or paraphrasing Cristiano Ronaldo’s words, “it doesn’t really matter who will play the match”.
THE SURPRISE FACTOR
December 13th, 2008.
Barcelona beat Real Madrid (2-0, goals by Eto’o and Messi) five days after Bernd Schuster got the sack from his job at the Bernabéu stadium. The German manager told the media that it was “impossible to win the derby against Barcelona”, in the press conference after losing to Sevilla 3-4 at home. He was immediately fired, as Juande Ramos took the charge and ended up losing in the most important game of the year, as his predecessor had foretold.
We could say that was the first time in many years where we could see a final result which met the previous expectations. Mostly, the surprise factor plays an important role in these kind of matches – it did in the famous 3-3 tie, when Messi began to be recognized as one of the best players of the world thanks to his three goals, or in the last chorreo* (2-6), when Barça took the first step to achieve their famous treble.
It’s been said that Real Madrid’s lack of playing style is such a big handicap that nothing can level the balance in order to satisfy their fans, not even their effectiveness (specially when Ronaldo is in the pitch).
The continuous search for a certain style which suits the team’s history and its supporters’ polish taste usually ends up with the press making comparisons with Barcelona and their performances which let them win the treble in the last season.
Last night’s defeat against AC Milan in the Santiago Bernabéu stadium showed us many different aspects of this new galácticos version: the squad’s inaccuracy towards the opposite goal when Cristiano is absent, as we mentioned above, or the easy match their rivals can have if they’re kind of a serious team – Milan wasn’t that reliable team, but Alexandre Pato’s intervention was enough to win the game.
La Liga’s Saturday matches: Deportivo-Sevilla, R.Madrid-Valladolid and Valencia-Barça – Goals & Highlights
The day has come. Tonight, Uruguay and Argentina will fight for a place in South Africa 2010 in a hard-fought match which will be played in the Centenario Stadium, in Montevideo, in the presence of 60,000 fans: 57,000 cheering for the home side and 3,000 who will drive their way from Buenos Aires to their neighbouring country’s capital through San Martín bridge.
Neither the history nor the statistics could tell us what could happen tonight, since a match like this one, where they will play for a ticket for the World Cup, has never been celebrated before.
Though, we all are football fans – it’s impossible for us not to take a look at the past when a game of vital importance is played. That’s what we do when we remember what happened when they faced each other in the last game of the qualifying round for Korea & Japan’s World Cup, back in 2001. The match was a one-all draw which let the celeste play the knock-out round against Australia. Everyone knows the Argentinian guys did their neighbours a big favour despite Germán ‘El Mono’ Burgos words (“we don’t know how to play to tie a game”) – the Uruguayan supporters are still grateful for what their rivals did and they keep on thanking them at present.
It’s been a month since Sevilla’s last defeat in Mestalla, in this season’s first date. During this time, Jiménez’s team has won every single match they’ve played (Zaragoza, Unirea, Osasuna, Mallorca, Athletic and Rangers), plus they’ve showed off their playing style and superb competitiveness level.
Last night’s game at Ibrox Park, where they beat the ‘teddy bears’ by 1-4, is a sort of demonstration of how good they’re doing things in Europe after last year’s premature elimination in Sampdoria’s Luigi Ferraris. Surely, they will qualify for the next round by winning their group – if they’re lucky enough they won’t play against a big team in the 1/16 finals.
Which Spanish player would fit better in the English Premier League’s playing style? If you asked this question to any football expert from the Iberian country, most of them would choose the same one: Fernando Llorente. Yes, that young guy who scored against England in Seville and did likewise against South Africa in the Confederations Cup.
The 24-year-old footballer was last year’s key for Athletic to reach the Spanish Cup final, where they got beaten against that unstoppable Barcelona – he also performed well in La Liga, where he netted 13 times.
However, Fernando’s greatest asset is not effectiveness towards the opposite goal (though he’s not bad at all), but the possibilities he gives to his teammates when they have the ball controlled in or next to the rival’s box.
Physically, ‘The Lion King’ looks like that typical slow and clumsy centre forward, but he surprises everyone when he touches the ball with his feet – he’s skilful and has the same virtues than those common and tall strikers, such as Luca Toni or Jan Koller.
Saturday’s performance at Upton Park, where Fernando scored two goals giving Liverpool another 3 points, was just another demonstration of how well the Spanish guy’s adapted himself to the Premier League.
His first goal against West Ham United was wonderful – it reminded me of his first goal in England, at Anfield against Chelsea, more than two years ago. From the moment he got the ball before getting inside the area, till he netted past Robert Green, he showed most of his innate skills (such as speed or decisiveness when having spaces up front), but he also showed us how he’s developed another skills during the time he’s been with Gerrard, Benayoun and company, e.g. short moves in short spaces that let rivals behind his back in a matter of hundredths.
Considering that British football certainly enhances his playing style, since his performances with Spanish National Team are not as good as they are with Liverpool, would you say he’s the best centre forward in the world these days?
4-0 in 40 minutes in a Spanish clásico against a team that’s currently playing in UEFA Champions League, just like they did last year in a similar situation – overwhelming, extraordinary, superb,…you can pick the adjective, it will fit perfectly.
However, there’s a difference with last year’s match in Camp Nou (which finished 6-1 for Barça): on that day, blaugranas were more like an avalanche, today, though, they won 3 points by walking around on the field – they didn’t even need to hit the gas in order to beat their rivals. It was humiliating for Atlético fans. Even more for Abel, who said they were “already losing 2-0 before the match started”.
273 days left until the kick-off in South Africa and 11 teams have already qualified for the World Cup: Australia, Brazil, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Ghana, Netherlands, England, Spain, Paraguay and of course the host squad. On the other hand, some of the other big national teams such as France, Portugal, Argentina or Germany haven’t got their tickets yet – something which won’t ruin the whole scenario that WC offers every 4 years.
Back to the qualified teams, we have Brazil, England and Spain, which have had great performances in the last months – e.g. Seleçao‘s victory over Argentina in Rosario or the eight wins out of eight matches for both European teams in their respective groups.
Are those the big achievements they need to be considered favourites in the tournament?
I don’t think so, but reading Harry Redknapp‘s think piece in today’s The Sun entitled “Now we’ll win the World Cup” it seems he doesn’t agree with me.