The night Saint Petersburg became Buenos Aires

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”

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Top of the group, thank VAR

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”

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”

What now, Real Madrid?

Another Real Madrid win. What’s next?

Phil has said it best: “Well, that was pretty bonkers”. It was a weird final indeed, one in which Liverpool’s showed the resilience that most winning sides need, but lacked the depth required to deal with Real Madrid. Continue reading “What now, Real Madrid?”

Preferably, joy in the end

gracious guardiola
Barcelona will win La Liga. Anything to say?

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”

Ronaldo gets his pic

The Portuguese striker demolishes Juventus again

 

ronaldo-bicycle-kick-goal-real-madrid
No funny captions for this one. It’s the pic that will define CR7’s Real Madrid career

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”