Allons enfants de la Patrie!

The 2018 World Cup, far more enjoyable than folks were expecting, was similar to a three-course meal that you spoiled by eating too much of the excellent starter (the Group Stage), leading you to a less spectacular but occasionally tasty main meal (knock-out stage), but a decent enough dessert to end the evening.  Without wishing to stretch the metaphor any further, the best team won despite the dubious nature of their first two goals, in a game where both sides stuck to the guns that had seen them reach the final.  Continue reading “Allons enfants de la Patrie!”

Did I not enjoy that!

As Graham Taylor might have said (had his sympathies been directed towards Spain) ‘Did I not enjoy that!’  The Russians stride on, unconcerned about the nature of their victory, since victory it is.  Perhaps Spain hadn’t quite seen it coming – in the sense that Russia, playing in front of the home crowd with a tail wind – might have been expected to have played a slightly more open game.  Fair cop to them, of course, but half-way through the first half their supporters showed a certain lack of irony when booing the Spanish team for retaining possession of the ball.  As the Spanish saying goes ‘¿Qué remedio?’ (what else could we do?), and in the second half it only got worse, with Russia completely renouncing any thoughts of more than two consecutive passes. Continue reading “Did I not enjoy that!”

Game of thrones

It’s a slightly strange scene on Monday in Group B, with permutations galore should unexpected things happen – and the most unexpected thing would be that Morocco, already homeward bound, defeated Spain by such a margin as to cause a draw in the other game between Portugal and Iran (a more likely result) to take the latter two through, sending Spain packing, along with their African neighbours.   In the murky past, when Spain were considered a decent technical side limited by a lack of tactical discipline and/or big tournament mentality, this is the sort of game they might indeed have bottled, and although times have clearly changed, nobody in the Spanish press is taking Morocco lightly, a side without points but with plenty of kudos garnered from their first two games. Continue reading “Game of thrones”

Of buses and bunkers

The last time I was in Tehran there were some taxi-bus vehicles that were called ‘Ayans’, if I recall correctly.  That’s what Iran parked on Wednesday night. They parked the Ayans, with so little shame that not even a forward was left up front.  Eleven behind the ball, and to think that when Carlos Queiroz, the coach with the looks of a long-faded porn star was signed for Real Madrid, he was considered to be one of the children of the new coaching dawn.  Bring on the night. Vicente del Bosque made way for him, because poor old Vicente, good coach though he was, could never have been a porn star, except in some parallel universe. Continue reading “Of buses and bunkers”

Spain: wax and wane

Well that was interesting, to employ that over-used English adjective. But you have to wonder about Nacho, a player who has spent the last 7 years on the training ground with Ronaldo, trying to work out how to nullify his attempts at the step-over.  And then it happens – the World Cup, fourth minute, and your mate is bearing down on you, in an unusually coloured red shirt. He does the step-over that you expect, but you fall for the trick, hook line and sinker.  Not only that, but you let your mate (CR7) make contact with you, and not the other way around.  Penalty, and suddenly Spain’s rather wet week is looking like it might just get diluvial.

Foul
Training-ground mates get serious

Continue reading “Spain: wax and wane”

It’s the Balls!

I was recently reminded by a reader that in the old ESPN days of yore, I used to do my top eleven La Liga players of the season, with a subs’ bench to boot.  This was often compared to Sid Lowe’s ‘The Sids’, and sundry debates did unfold. Ah well, Sid’s super famous now, but I guess if folks still want to know mine, we can just call it ‘The Balls’. I did once suggest that to ESPN, but as you know, it’s a family site. Here on Liga Fever, we can do what the hell we like.

It's the balls!

Continue reading “It’s the Balls!”

Shaking off the Quixote effect (2006)

*With the World Cup comin’ up, this was a piece I wrote for the New York Times in 2006, just after Spain had lost to France in the World Cup.  It was the last time the national side were to really suffer from the ‘Quixote effect’, and looking back, it’s interesting how the piece quietly predicts the changes to comeIf you prefer, the original is here:

I recall a time when Rod Stewart was still able to write songs. He composed a ditty entitled “Every Picture Tells a Story” some time way back in the previous century, and I remember the opening lines well: Continue reading “Shaking off the Quixote effect (2006)”