Posts Tagged ‘ Cristiano Ronaldo ’

Summer of Soccer–Euro 2016 Final

Read part 1 of Euro 2016 journal here

Read my Copa Centenario journal here

——

France vs Portugal live

The 2016 European Championship Final saw France take on Portugal. The hosts versus Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy quest. The match up recalled previous match ups, including the Euro 2000 Semi Final and the dramatic 1984 Semi Final. The latter event was something I learned about the days leading up to the tournament (Video and Howler Radio podcast)

For the match I headed down to Fado Buckhead. The plan was to record a Terminus Legion podcast and get a seat for the game. Due to a scheduling mix up the podcast didn’t happen but thank god I was there early. I settled in at a table on the mezzanine and by 1:30 tables downstairs were at a premium, by kickoff people were four and five deep at the bar, and by halftime, you couldn’t get in. I did some get stinkeye as people walked through the bar in search of somewhere to watch the game. Sorry guys. This wasn’t my first rodeo.

Portugal-v-France-Final-UEFA-Euro-2016-1-700x548

Les Bleus were the preferred team at Fado with Portugal and Ronaldo being booed during the walk out. Cheers of Allez Les Bleus rang out from time to time and not much sympathy was given to Ronaldo when he went down injured and eventually had to be subbed out. Sissoko brought out gasps of excitement and anticipation as he drove forward in search of the opener. He seemed to be the only player who was willing to create opportunities and most of the other players fluffed their lines or skewed their shots into the crowd.

Portugal took the cliché “survive and advance” and executed it to the utmost during this tournament. Ronaldo’s two goals saved them against Hungary and allowed them to advance out of the group as a third placed team. From there, a putrid performance against Croatia was salvaged by a late goal in extra time and then they held their nerve against Poland, while the victory against Wales was their first in regulation of the tournament. For the Final, they hustled and bustled without doing too much, although they did trouble Lloris from time to time. I thought for sure Portugal were going to win the match when a handball was incorrectly called against Koscielny but the free kick thundered off the crossbar. There was no let off when Eder created space and hit a low hard shot to secure Portugal’s first major title.

Euro-2016-Final-Portugal-v-France

In the end, Cristiano Ronaldo delivered what Eusebio and Figo could not. He now has almost every major title and surely will be named Ballon D’Or later this year. Say what you want about him, but he delivers. His key goals got them to the Final and even though he only played a small part of the Final, you can’t ignore his efforts on the sideline.

As for France, I am surprised they lost. Les Bleus seemed to be peaking and were ready to join their predecessors by winning on home soil. Maybe it was nerves, maybe something else, but they never really hit top gear. Maybe Kante should have played. Maybe Martial should have come in earlier. Maybe Griezmann just ran out of magic. However their performance sets the stage for possible run to the World Cup in Russia.

A couple of odds and ends.

touchline

Surely Real Madrid is going to be pissed at the Portugal training staff for letting CR7 run about on a torn ACL.

quaresma-hair-portugal-500x370

What can you say about Quarsema’s hair? Wish some of these players would put as much time into their finishing as their follicles.

France's midfielder Moussa Sissoko (L) vies for the ball against Portugal's defender Raphael Guerreiro during the Euro 2016 final football match between France and Portugal at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

As for the kits, the Final was not marred by some weird clash or alternate alternate kit. Both teams wore the home strip. Would have preferred contrasting shorts but Nike clearly has an idea of what they want their kits to look like.

7535458-3x2-940x627

In the end I enjoyed the tournament. Watching the BBC’s post Final montage and quickly skimming the Guardian’s highs and lows I was reminded of some the wonderful moments as well as the quickly forgotten episodes. Several outlets lamented the lack of excitement and quality. I thought there some poor games but some amazing goals and wonderful atmosphere. To be fair, I was a little more distant from the tournament than normal due to other commitments but still relished the event.

——

Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Strip Club–Champagne Room Edition

Manchester United came into the 2008/09 campaign as the two time defending English Champions and the reigning European Champions, but Ferguson changed up the squad in an attempt to win a massive five trophies.  He brought in Brazilian twins Fábio and Rafael to add youth to the defense and Dimitar Berbatov to deepen an already strong front line.  Out went Mikaël Silvestre and Louis Saha.

The Red Devils retained the Premiership, using an unbeaten run in the middle of the season, during which they kept 14 straight clean sheets.  Back to back defeats to Liverpool (their main rival for the title that season) and Fulham saw the Champions’ lead evaporate but Fergie’s Army responded by winning eight of their last nine games, including Macheda’s amazing injury time goal against Aston Villa and a rousing comeback against Tottenham Hotspur.  In the end the club secured their 18th First Division title by four points.

In the domestic cup competitions, the Reds almost won both, beating Spurs on penalties in the League Cup before falling in penalties to Everton in the FA Cup Semis.  Defeat meant that it had been five years since the club won this storied competition.

Success the previous season saw the Red Devils play in the European Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.  Zenit St. Petersburg upended the Reds 2-1 in the Super Cup while later in the year, the club travelled to Japan for the gathering of continental champions.  The Reds defeated Gamba Osaka of the host country in the semis and LDU Quito of Ecuador 1-0 in the Final.

In Europe, the club drew their way through a group stage of Villarreal, Aalborg and Celtic.  Their reward for winning the group was a tilt against Mourinho’s Inter.  A 2-0 win at Old Trafford set up a clash with Porto and the tie was on a knife edge as Porto had drawn at Old Trafford 2-2, but a stunning goal by Ronaldo settled matters, with domestic rivals Arsenal drawn in the Semis.  United took care of the first leg and then overran the Gunners in the second leg, going up 2-0 in the opening quarter of hour.  Next up was FC Barcelona in Rome and a chance at history.

The Blaugrana withstood a furious start by the English Champions and opened the scoring after only nine minutes as E’too stepped inside of Vidic to poke home past Van der Sar.  Eventually the Spanish club found their footing and took the game to United in a reversal of the first half.  United rode their luck, creating chances of their own, but a Messi goal with 20 minutes to go ended United’s hope of retaining their European crown.  With the victory FCB won the Treble and ushered in a cycle of dominance.

After the season, Ronaldo went to Real Madrid and Tevez crossed town to City, causing Ferguson to rebuild the squad yet again.  The following season, Chelsea would claim the Double.

Based on research done by Historical Kits, United wore blue and white vertical stripes as their away shirt starting in 1902, when the club changed their name from Newton Heath to Manchester United.  Starting in 1939, the club used an all blue shirt and white shorts until 1957 as their away kit.  From there they switched to a white shirt and shorts, with the blue shirt used as a third jersey on occasion (hard to imagine a third jersey used that long ago).  For the magical 1968 European Cup Final, Manchester United wore an all blue strip when the club defeated Benfica 4-1 (aet) at Wembley.  In my research I found this highlights package of the game, which was in color, the first time I had ever seen the match not in black and white.  For the next several decades, the club used the blue shirt as an away and third option.

MUFC

The 2008-09 version is an homage to the 1968 European Cup triumph with the date of May 29th, 1968 and a note about the 40th Anniversary circling the team crest.

images

The full kit is as follows (via Colours of Football):

eng_mu_3_0809

My wife gave me the long sleeved version of this shirt for Christmas one year and I love it.  She even personalized with JUNIOR #7, which is my go to for personalized kits.  Although the shirt is only a replica and not the authentic version, it fits nicely and I enjoy wearing it for game days and pick up games whenever possible.  One of my favorite shirts and I love the historical reference wrapped up in the kit.

MatchDay Memory–The Big Two Part 2 (Memories and Tactics)

As for my personal involvement in the rivalry, the first El Clasico I can remember is the game after Figo switched sides in the summer of 2000.  I had loved him at FCB and was sad to see him go over to the Evil Empire.  I definitely didn’t have the hatred that the Nou Camp supporters showed when he returned to the Nou Camp, and I vaguely remember the famous Pig’s Head game that followed.  Tom Adams looked back at those days for Soccernet.

I have to admit that Clasico viewings between those games and the Pep Era were hit and miss.  Once I heard that Ronaldinho was actually cheered by the Real Madrid fans, I had to find highlights, during which I saw an amazing performance by Ronny, in a season that ended with the League and European Cup double.  Then in March 2007, I read the match report about the 3-3 draw and found snippets of the game, including a sick hat trick from Messi, but it wasn’t enough to keep Beckham and Real Madrid from winning the title that season.

I haven’t missed a League Clasico since Pep took over.  Some of the matches have been duds (December 2008 and November 2009) in which Real Madrid used an overly physical approach to nullify a Barcelona team in the ascendancy, while others have been Blaugrana Epics (May 2009 and the manita of November 2010).  Of course there was the Clasico Apocalypse of 2011, which saw the rivals play four times in 20 days.  I watched both legs of the Champions League semi and the league encounter but missed most of the Copa del Rey final (stupid work), although I did see CR7’s winning goal.  The Spanish Super Cups have been hard to schedule as they come during a ginormous work function, but in all in all, the games recently have been amazing on every level—drama, tactics, and technical ability.

Speaking of tactics, there have been several developments for both clubs during the recent years.  With Pep’s hire, the Blaugrana maintained the 4-3-3, which is part of the club’s DNA, but the former Barca captain added a level of pressing and increased fitness.  Possession became a means to defend, as opponents rarely saw the ball and were under constant pressure, eventually breaking under constant bombardment.  Width from outside backs allowed attackers to come inside and combine in intricately, leading to amazing goals of skill and precision.  Now that almost every opponent parks the bus, the team is confronted with their next progression.

Messi was slowly moved from his right hand berth to a more central role, starting as false 9, which caused backlines all sorts of problems.  Do you follow Messi into midfield?  Do you focus on him and allow Pedro and Villa to drive at you from the wings?  These days Messi has moved to almost a false 10 position with Fabregas stretching the play and Messi able to pull the strings and occasionally dribble at defenses.  Kxevin at the Barcelona Football Blog commented on this recent phenomenon.

Another player that evolved is Sergio Busquets.  Pep arrived and made the youth player the fulcrum of the team.  Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita have moved on as Busi has become vital to the success of the team. Andreas Vou looked at the evolution of Sergio Busquets for Inside Spanish Football.  Busquets has moved from the pivot to the third center back to the sweeper and back again, which has allowed the Blaugrana to constantly tweak the formation and approach.  Jonathan Wilson called him the 3 and a half after the first league Clasico of 11/12.

From a Real Madrid perspective, Los Blancos have progressed from an entertaining side that was open and scored lots of goals (but gave up plenty as well) to a pragmatic side that is a lethal counterattacking unit.  In the 2000’s the club made the mistake of selling Geremi and Makelele, players who snuffed out attacks, gave the ball to the creative players and shielded an aging backline.  The team was exposed time and time again and tried to outscore the opposition, which was effective to varying degrees.  After Capello squeezed a couple of titles out of a decent squad, the club floundered until Perez reinstituted the Galacticos policy, bringing CR7, Pepe, Ozil, Alonso, Benzema and a host of others.

These players were overmatched by the FCB machine and it took the arrival of Mourinho and a couple seasons of his discipline to pay dividends.  Now the squad defends as a unit, wins the ball and launches lighting swift counters with CR7, Di Maria, Ozil and Higuain or Benzema.  Angel Di Maria was signed to give balance to the attack and switched from right midfield, his position at Benfica, to left mid.  Occasionally he and CR7 switch but Di Maria’s cutting inside encourages interplay between the lone striker (Higuain or Benzema) and attacking midfielder (Ozil) and also allows Marcelo to overlap.  As for Ozil his transfer provided a more dynamic option to Kaka.  The German, who basically plays the same position for Germany, drifts side to side and pulls the strings. His teammates react by alternating positions, and opposing defenses are forced to make decisions against an attack full of dynamism and energy.

In the back Sergio Ramos has moved from right back to center back.  Carvalho was a Mourinho signing to help him build his power base but injuries and lack of form saw him slip out of the team.  Arbeloa has been serviceable on the right hand side, which has allowed for the emergence of a Pepe/Ramos pairing, full of speed and aggressiveness.  Frustration at FCB’s dominance led to several cards but both have been under control lately.  It is breathtaking to watch and their current shape took them to a league championship and within a whisker of the Champions League Final.

We now enter a period when the two teams are considered the best in the world and will lock horns home and abroad in the search for glory.  Plus several subplots give texture to the battle between the clubs.  How long for Mourinho?  He has never led a team beyond three seasons.  Along with that, can Mou lead Los Blancos to La Decima?  Can Tito keep this cycle going or will he be at the wheel as the Blaugrana fade once more before rebuilding?  Will we see a Real Madrid/FC Barcelona Champions League Final, setting up the greatest confrontation between two biggest sports clubs/franchises/teams in the world?  I can’t wait to see what this season and the near future holds.

Morbo Minute–Atleti Show Their Stripes

Another round, another Barcelona victory.  That story line can be put to bed until March when we’ll see if fatigue or a push from Real Madrid or focus on European glory slows the Blaugrana juggernaut.  As for the rest of La Primera, the panel at Inside Spanish Football pod named Cristiano Ronaldo their Player of the Week, as he scored their Goal of the Week and was the only bright spot in another wise dour Madrid Derby.  They also touched on Valencia not treating their manager, a former player during a very successful time for the club, with respect before moving on Getafe’s third straight victory and other news and notes.  Don’t want to forget to mention Joel Campbell’s cracking goal for Betis as Los Verdiblancos built on their victory over Real Madrid and are now in fourth.  Plus Malaga’s third kit made an appearance in their loss to Getafe.  Electric lime might not be the proper identification, but whatever the color, not attractive.

——

FC Barcelona 5  Athletic Bilbao 1

Los Leones came into the match after a rescheduled Europa League game in midweek so I was concerned about their energy levels, but the team started well and maintained a great deal of composure despite being without Muniain.  Unfortunately, once the visitors got over midfield, everything broke down, with Aduriz and Ander having very poor games, losing their footing and constantly turning the ball over.

In time, the hosts simply overwhelmed Athletic pushing players forward, interchanging positions and pressuring them all over the pitch.  Once FCB broke through, off a direct corner of all things, there was only one result.  The Blaugrana immediately scored another goal and created wonderful chances throughout the half, culminating in a simply stunning goal from Adriano with the last kick of the first period.

The second half saw Llorente come on for Aduriz but the big forward had even less of an impact on the game, as Athletic tired, leading to less pressure and organization and poor interplay from all players.  FCB took it down a gear but still scored twice.  Iniesta laid off a skillful pass for Fabregas; Ibai scored a fine consolation goal; and Messi added his second of the night to complete the scoring.

A couple of player notes.

  • Thought Iniesta started poorly but eventually was unplayable.  What he can do in tight spaces is beyond comprehension.
  • Ramalho was had a ‘mare at right back.  Chased shadows and lost possession for a majority of the game.
  • Adriano played on his opposite side.  Some debate on why he started instead of Montoya, but he made a great run for his goal and showed tremendous energy throughout the match. Definite glue guy for the team.

With Atleti’s loss, the Blaugrana are now six points clear at the top.  A result against Los Colchoneros just before the winter break and FCB can start looking at trying to retain their Copa del Rey title as well as regaining the Champions League.

Spoiled.  Simply put that is what Barca fans are at the moment says Kxevin from Barcelona Football Blog.  The Blaugrana are now on top of the league in record breaking fashion, a league that has decided to stop fearing FCB and tried to take the game to them.  Action, reaction.  Repeat.  In this case, Tito Vilanova has made the team more direct, less patient and focused on results.  One thing that Pep’s teams did not do in the last season or two was step on the throat.  This current squad rips the throat, dismembers the opponent and revels in the bloodbath.  A couple of nervy moments at the beginning of the season have given way to a run of form reminiscent of the amazing run of the 2010/11 campaign with win after win.  Yet Real Madrid still came back.  Tito’s real test will be rotating the squad to maintain the results and the awe inspiring play while keeping a little in reserve for the trophy with the big ears.  Let’s see where things in stand heading into March. Fans are still spoiled though.  And it won’t last forever.

(Tangent.  This goes for FCB and Manchester United.  Once Fergie goes at Old Trafford, United will begin the slow descent into mediocrity.  Gone will be Father Figure, the manager who strikes terror in everyone involved, the veteran hand who has seen everything, and the gaffer who can instill confidence and fear in equal measure in his players.  So with Barca.  The Golden Generations can’t last forever.  Time is almost up for Puyol and Xavi, with Villa and Iniesta to follow.  Then you have the Messi/Pique/Fabregas group.  The Argentinian will be the focus and that may be the problem.  Without a strong supporting cast his influence can be reduced.  Argentina National Team anyone?  Then you have Pedro, Montoya, Busquets and Thiago.  Can that group reach the heights of their predecessors?  Can they do it with the veterans to lead them? Can they do without heavy investment from the squad?  Barca has always hit a lull before remerging.  Van Gaal gave way to a barren period before Rijkaard led them to glory.  But the Dutchman failed to retain the titles of 2006 and eventually gave way to Pep and a simply historic period of success that we have not seen the end of.  But it will end.  Always has, always will be.  What is the next chapter?

——

Real Madrid 2  Atletico Madrid 0

What a disappointment.  Atleti came into this match with their best chance in a long time of ending the hoodoo and Simeone sent out his troops with one thought—foul the shit of the Los Blancos.  I understand the approach, get into Real’s head, get them off their game and sneak in a goal, but Atleti did very little in the way of attacking.  With only four or five shots (that might be generous) the visitors focused on the physical attack, with Diego Costa leading the way.  If this had been an NBA game, he would have fouled out early, but at least he came to play, not backing down from the hosts and trying to drive forward.  Falcao channeled his inner Rivaldo after the Sergio Ramos love tap.  Nothing there.  You’re a big, strong lad.  Get on with it.

Mourinho put out a full strength eleven, and while Ozil was ok, maybe a little better than his 45 minutes against Real Betis, I felt that Di Maria had some nice individual moments but maybe he could have combined better. After minor flare ups from Pepe and Sergio Ramos due to Atleti’s robust style, the defenders were firmly in control.  The Special One stated that he didn’t know his team earlier in the season.  Yet he continues to roll out the same players. Seems like he should make changes to startle the underperformers into doing a little more.

Cristiano’s goal was spectacular.  I can’t remember the last time he scored one like that, but it reminded me of the goal he scored for United against Pompey, maybe 2008 or 2009.   Simply unstoppable.  Real Madrid found their rhythm in the second half, with nice interchanges in the final third, which kept the visitors pinned back.

The match was reminiscent of the Barcelona and Real Madrid battles early in Pep’s reign, in which Real would just foul and foul and foul, hoping to stop FCB by brute force rather than by organization, anticipation and tactics.  In the same way, Atleti tried to outmuscle rather than out play Real.  Maybe if they had tried to play straight up, their reward might have been a Real Madrid Manita, but for all the hype and expectation, this match was a huge let down.

One last note, going back through the lineups, I saw Carvalho was on the bench.  I didn’t even know he was still on the squad.

Managing Madrid saw Ronaldo open the scoring which forced Atleti out of their shell and from there Ozil took full advantage.  These two players have had recent success against their crosstown rivals and again they rose to the occasion.

Martin Rosenow reviewed the damage for Atleti Fans.  Ronaldo’s goal took the wind of Los Colcheneros and with Luis Felipe out due to late injury, the team never got going. Nine straight derby losses.  Ouch.  However, still firmly in second and well above the chasing pack for third.  If Atleti can hold on to Falcao, they will have a small window to replace Valencia as the best of the rest.  However if the Colombian goes, I fear they will fall away again.  We’ll see.

Atleti is one of many clubs in La Liga struggling to find a shirt sponsor.  Their last set sponsor was Kia, which cut ties in 2011, so I was surprised to see something across the chests of the red and white jerseys.  Based on a post at Atleti Fans, the club signed an agreement with the Republic of Azerbaijan. Not sure what Land of Fire on but if the club is getting money, then more power to them.

Finally, Chalk on the Boots analyzed the game, correctly stating that the match was “instantly forgettable” with 42 fouls and very little in terms of attacking fluency.  He identified a couple of key factors to the match: Ozil’s lack of space against a compact Atleti side (until the game opened up in the second half); Cata Diaz, usually a centerback, played at left back, which sacrificed an element of attack; and a lack of wide service for Falcao and Costa.

——

Articles

Sid Lowe focused on Pellegrino’s dismissal in his weekly column.  After standing by several coaches in the past, President Manolo Llorente fired his manager as the fans have begun to turn on him.  Backed by the players, there are elements of fear and lack of long term planning in this decision and now it is up to Valverde to improve their league position while contending in the Copa and the Champions League.

La Liga Loca also discussed Pellegrino’s termination on Football365.  As everyone said at the end of last season when Emery was let go, be careful what you wish far.  Despite relative success, Emery was let go, and, after the club failed to get AVB, Llorente turned to Pellegrino.  The Argentinean didn’t last long and now the club is faced with financial and managerial instability.

Phil Ball wondered how the seemingly laid back Tito Vilanova gets the Blaugrana to press and attack and bamboozle opponents.  Their record start has been inspired by a historic individual performance and an indefatigable team effort.  He then moved to the Madrid Derby, where Simeone showed a possible lack of tactical nous.  Phil also touched on the cult of Mourinho as his window of influence and abrasiveness is closing.  He concluded with Pellegrino’s firing and the reemergence of Javier Aguirre at Espanyol.

Listened to an old Off the Ball pod (11/21) with Graham Hunter, in which he discussed CR7’s future at Real Madrid.  The winger’s contract is running out and this prompted a conversation about whether the club should sell the Portuguese player (could go to City or PSG) and possibly buy Neymar.  The players are not like for like in terms of footballing ability but there is something to be said in terms of star power.

Staying with CR7, Jonathan Wilson made the argument in the Guardian that Ronaldo is the reason that Real Madrid won’t win La Decima.  While he concedes the former Manchester United’s great physical skills, he notes some glaring weaknesses in his game that could keep him from being part of a great team.  Isolated as defensive laxity, Wilson notes that full backs create disadvantages for the rest of Ronaldo’s teammates causing undue pressure and goals. On Off the Ball last week Wilson went as far to say that Ronaldo would not be in his starting eleven because “he doesn’t know how to play football.”  His premise is that systems and groups win rather than one player who demands the ball, demands the players and demands the accolades.  Definitely a provocative argument, especially in a world that sees the current landscape as Messi v Ronaldo.

Finally, My Golden Great is a series that Football Espana is developing, where the site looks back into the history of the league to identify wonderful players of years past.  Recently Sam Marsden picked out Rivaldo’s year just before the end of the millennium.  Right in my wheelhouse, as this was the time when I started following FCB and La Liga with some regularity.  I remembered his amazing performances against United in the 1998/99 Champions League Group Stage and some phenomenal goals in the following campaign, both home and abroad.  The Brazilian ended up winning the 1999 Ballon d’Or award after a great year for club and country.  I was able to find his Barca goals from in and around that season.  As Tim Vickery always says, Rivaldo might be involved 50 times in a match.  48 times he’ll drive you crazy but the other two are simply amazing.