Argentina defeat Nigeria and a few of their own ghosts
“Vení, vení, cantá conmigo” (Come, come, sing with me), starts the most repeated chant in Saint Petersburg during the last couple of days. The Argentines, present in every corner of the city, spent hours humming, whistling and very often singing the short, catchy tune off the top of their lungs, almost as a good luck charm that should make Lionel Messi and his teammates click in their do-or-die match against Nigeria. Continue reading “The night Saint Petersburg became Buenos Aires”
Spain struggle to draw with Morocco. Fresh ideas & legs are badly needed
The fact that Spain managed to qualify to the knockout stages of this World Cup in the first spot of their group defies all logic. Yes, they’re undefeated. Yes, they’ve scored six goals in three matches. Yes, they dominated proceedings for most of the games against their three rivals. But all those facts fail to tell the story of an embarrassing defence – both in open play and in set pieces –, and of an endless succession of touches without much intent to score, easily dealt with by their opponents. The way Spain have played, especially in the last two matches, does not look promising for the outcome of this World Cup. Continue reading “Top of the group, thank VAR”
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”
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.
Well, we think it’s all over. After Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Valencia, Barcelona would have to lose four of the six remaining matches for 2nd place Atletico de Madrid to entertain any hopes of contending for the title. Having in mind that the Azulgrana have not lost in their last 39 La Liga matches – a new record in that competition –, four defeats in six seems as likely as Guardiola reacting graciously in defeat. Continue reading “Preferably, joy in the end”
This was supposed to be a match review. And rest assured that you will have your match review.
However, let me talk first about the reinvention of Cristiano Ronaldo, a two-dimensional phenomenon that has seen the Portuguese striker evolve from an egocentric, dribble intensive global icon that couldn’t quite conquer the hearts of the Santiago Bernabeu into a team-first, pure number 9 — if that makes sense — that is now a Real Madrid legend. Continue reading “Ronaldo gets his pic”
The most important moment of the weekend in terms of the La Liga title was Denis Suarez’s move in Barcelona’s second goal, the one that meant the Azulgrana got a point in Sevilla. He simply got out of the way when he saw Lionel Messi arriving, hungry to score. That moment tells a story of this Barcelona season: the team deferring to Messi’s higher skill, and the Argentinean delivering what’s needed for his side to win, even if he only had just over half an hour to do so.
The date was marked in red on my calendar. Huge expectations! Phil and I had planned the evening in such detail that we never considered the possibility of not having a real, competitive match to watch at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, that’s exactly what happened. Continue reading “No contest”
There’s a little guy who always stands outside the bar near my flat when he wants a smoke, which is quite a frequent occurrence. He has one of those wee white Scottish Terriers, and it sits obediently under the shelf where he places his drink and ashtray, with the newspaper always open at the football page. He knows his stuff (the guy, not the dog), and I always like to talk to him for five minutes, sort of en passant. Approaching him Saturday lunchtime with a bag over my shoulder containing the weekend’s few possessions that I needed, I announced in Spanish the following phrase ‘Tengo buenas sensaciones’ (I have a good feeling) to which he instantly replied, ‘Sí. Estarán pensando en el PSG’ (Yes – they’ll be too busy thinking about PSG). Continue reading “Non-tinted spectacles”