Posts Tagged ‘ UEFA ’

Champions League Blues

 

Barcelona-UEFA-Champions-League-2015

Months on from Barca’s incredible treble treble another Champions League campaign is upon us. In years past I would be following the results of the Final Qualifying Round and the Group Stage draw and planning how to use my time off to watch games, getting hyped for the upcoming competition. But over the summer I had none of the excitement, none of the anticipation for the premier soccer event in the world.

Several reasons for this:

Work. At my old job and I had a generous amount of time off and typically banked my personal days so I could watch either Manchester United or one of big Match Days. After working for a couple of hours, I would head down to the local pub, settle in with a beverage and lunch and get ready for the game. With my new job, I barely have any PPL so saving them for a rainy day really isn’t an option. I have tried to go on media blackout and watch replays but have not had much success with that.

The Group Stage. Big teams almost always make it to the Knockout Round so the tournament can lack drama in the opening stages. By Match Day 5, the top two seeds have booked their place. Occasionally you get the slip ups, like recently when United didn’t make it out of the Group Stage in 11/12 or when defending champs Chelsea took their eyes off the prize and finished third in 12/13 (before going on win the Europa League) or the disaster of Juventus’ campaign in 13/14 or just Manchester City in general.

On top of this there are too many games. Eight matches per match day makes it hard enough to keep up with the highlights much less the narratives, like whether a lesser team can sneak into second place or whether a real minnow can qualify for the Europa League. Rarely do you have a scenario where all teams have a chance to advance and even if you did, I wouldn’t have time to watch it.

Time. One issue I have been dealing with over the last couple of years is Soccer Time Management. I just don’t have the time to watch and read and cover the entire world of soccer. To this end, I have started focusing more on Manchester United and Major League Soccer. With the Red Devils back in the competition, I will watch Champions League games but will prioritize United games over other Champions League matches.

I am debating whether to pony up for FoxSoccer2Go. For $20 a month I can get all of the games and highlights. I think if you time it right, you can subscribe mid-September when the competition starts and quit in mid-December when the competition hibernates for the winter. Spring is a little tougher as the tournament starts earlier and earlier and ends later and later. I can watch the highlights on several sites and I think the money will only be worth it so I can watch United games at night and for the Knockout Stage.

Speaking of the Knockout Stage, UEFA has stretched out the Round of 16, which does alleviate the number of games one has to keep up but this has dulled the momentum of the competition somewhat. Seems like it takes forever for the tournament to get going again come late February or early March. However the Semi Finals over the last couple of years have been tense, action packed affairs with Chelsea’s elimination of Barcelona in 2012, Bayern’s destruction of the Blaugrana in 2013 and Juventus’ heroics against Real Madrid in 2015 to name a few.

19.05.2012. Munich Germany. Champions League Final FC Bayern Munich versus FC Chelsea. Powerfully headed goal in the 88th minute by Didier Drogba equalising the game at 1-1.

The Finals have been decent for the most part. Drama has been high while quality has been hit and miss. With the Final on Saturday rather than Wednesday, I am able to usually get in front of a TV for the event and have attended several watch parties over the last couple of years, which made it all the better.

kingsofeurope1

In the end, I’m going to watch the tournament, especially United’s re-introduction, but have made peace with the fact that I can’t watch every moment of every game. How do you consume the tournament? Is the Champions League still the end all be all? Is the Champions League better than the World Cup? Let me know in the comments below.

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Old Futbol Buffet–Shin of Samir

This match was all about momentum.  Sir Alex set out United with a clear game plan, building on the success at StamfordBridge.  Defend, counter, score, repeat.  To be fair, Rooney’s first was a scuffed shot, but the second was the result of Nastasic being out to lunch as the Reds drove forward.  And just like the match against the Blues, even at 2-0 up the game was only heading one way.  Minutes away from halftime, I was praying for the whistle, and when Barry’s shot fizzed wide just before the interval, I thought United might be able to hold on.

In the second half, the game changed in an instant.  The Red Devils went from a virtually unassailable 3-0 lead to a white knuckle 2-1 advantage.  The pendulum had swung to the hosts and everything favored City.  They had the athletes, the speed and the momentum.  And United had Ashley Young and a lack of soccer IQ.

Now I don’t want to get off a rant here but . . .

What a woeful performance from Young.  Turnover after turnover after turnover; constantly going to ground; lack of defensive cover for Evra.  But the worst was that in the final minutes of the game, he switched flanks, latched on to a long ball and just had to not give it up.  What does he do?  Gives it up.  He must go at the end of the season.  United need to rebuild their flanks, as Valencia is the only consistent performer and he is perpetually injured.

Moving on . . .

United didn’t know how to close out the match.  Ahead for the first time in ages, not having to outwork, outfight, outscore their opponents, they lacked the composure to finish the game off.  The Reds couldn’t take advantage of City being stretched and were lucky to escape with the three points.

Look at City’s goals.  They got in behind the United defense as Evra fell asleep and then Tevez showed amazing poise to layoff for Yaya after a mad scramble.  On the corner, Young was watching Zabaleta as he smashed in a shot through Jones’ legs (through the legs was another theme of the match).

Side note: Mancini will get some gas for not starting Tevez but in this instance I support the Italian manager.  Aguero and Balotelli were causing problems and could have caused more had Balotelli decided to give more than maybe 50%.  City had a lot of possession but weren’t too dangerous, but what this pairing did was set up the substitution of Tevez, especially after Evans went out.  Mancini brought on the energetic Tevez and was close to turning the match around until the dramatic winner.  It could be asked would the result been different with Tevez from the off.  Maybe.  But if City were down 2-0 and Mancini had brought on Balotelli, then based on his performance, the Citizen would have not even got back into the game.

Did United deserve to win?  Conflicted.  Draw probably would have been the fair result, maybe even a City win.  Looking back at the season thus far: a gift at Liverpool, a steal at Chelsea, and a taut encounter at City with a fortunate deflection.  Is this the steel of champions or the luck of paper tiger?  In the season of the weird, we won’t know until May.

Doubt if I will read a fairer report of the game than Suffering Bruin’s post on Bitter and Blue.  He acknowledged that Young’s goal should have stood; he castigated the fan who threw the coin at Rio; he also acknowledged that if Tevez had started and Kompany was on the field , things might have gone differently; finally he wanted viewers to appreciate the fact that Tevez could have gone down when Evra was pressuring him, but did not.

Over at Red Rants, Daniele compared RvP’s impact to that of Cantona, as the Dutchman saved United (again) after a hard fought performance at the Eithad.  He correctly pointed out that Sir Alex played with more purpose (read: attack) than last spring’s away fixture, which saw United pack the midfield, slump to defeat and eventually concede the title.  Reading the report I was reminded that Young set up the first goal so have to give him so credit but still ready to drive him away from Manchester.

Finally Zonal Marking saw United sit back and counter and the Reds executed the approach to full effect.  Likening the game to the Chelsea match a couple of weeks ago, Rooney would drop into the midfield so that the center mids wouldn’t be overloaded.  Once winning the ball, the Red Devils were very direct, which caused the two goals.  Tevez’s introduction changed the game as the center backs chased Tevez and Aguero around with Carrick and Cleverly being passed around, letting the Citizens run at United, never a good thing.  In the end, poor set piece defending created by the substitutions created a frantic ending, with United securing the points.

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Following the Manchester Derby, Mid Michigan United held a FIFA 13 Tournament, a combination of fun, one year birthday of the group, and a fundraiser for Ele’s Place.  I had never played the game on the Xbox or the Playstation so didn’t rate my chances.  Playing as Manchester United, I held my own against my opponent, who used Valencia.  My lack of offense and defensive organization was eventually punished as I lost 1-0 to eventual champion Cody, a 20 year old college student at MSU.  He won the tournament in the final against a seven year old.  Yes seven.  All of the 30 somethings fell to the wayside and the younger generations triumphed, but a great time for a great cause.

Finally, after watching the Barcelona match, I played an indoor game.  Down 5-2 at half, we roared back to win 8-6.  I chipped in with a goal but that was about it.  I am really surprised that my off season workout of drinking beer and watching soccer is not paying dividends.  Ugh.  Time to get back at it.

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Articles and Pods

Due to a #FF from Scott the Red, I found this post at Man Utd Tactics about the changing personnel and formations from the first Premier League winning side until now.  Sir Alex won his first title using a 4-4-2 with wingers and high/low forwards.  From there he moved to a narrow 4-2-3-1 culminating in the 2002/03 Premier League winning side.  Since then he has moved oscillated between the 4-4-2 and 4-3-2-1 win depending on Rooney’s position (and fitness and mindset) and the central midfield pairings available.  This season Sir Alex has even tried a 4-3-3, which makes sense since he has so many attacking players.  Of course this only works with Welbeck and Hernandez in advanced positions.  They simply cannot play on the wings due to a lack of technical ability and defensive cover.  Seems as if the gaffer is adding this formation to his repertoire for games in which United are favored.  Long term, he needs to find a center midfield general and shore up the center of the defense.  As the author states:

The history of United’s changing tactical approach since Keane left the club can be summed up as an attempt to overcome the loss of Roy Keane with an interlude where the tactical approach was completely changed to exploit the brilliance of Ronaldo.

Future success will be determined by strengthened the middle.  If this continues to go unaddressed, no number of world class strikers will be able to save the Red Devils.

Last week marked one year since the death of Brazilian star Socrates.  Fellow MMMSL Over 30 competitor tweeted out his post from last year in remembrance.  To be honest, my only knowledge of the player is from occasional references from Tim Vickery on World Football Phone In, but Peter’s post and video from YouTube were a nice introduction to the player.

A week after the trial balloon of a 64 team Champions League was floated, Gabriele Marcotti laid out a revision of the current system.  Basically the two best first place teams would move on right to the quarterfinals, while he proposed a play-in system for the four best third place teams against four worst second placed teams.  My first instinct is no.  Seems very NFL-ish to me.  European soccer is foreign to Americans because of its straightforward nature.  Normal numbers (16, 8, 4, 2), home and away, move on.  (Away goals is a little confusing.)  Plus why should third placed teams have any second chances?  They already drop into the Europa League. (I’m assuming Gabriele’s plan would eliminate that option).  Anyway, keep it as it is.  Yes there are dead rubbers on Matchday 6, but that there was also the drama of Celtic and Chelsea.

Chris Bevan profiled American Oguchi Onyewu for the BBC.  Currently on loan from Sporting, he has landed on a Malaga team defying expectations after a summer of confusion and uncertainty.  Winners of their Champions League Group and currently fifth in La Liga, Los Boquerones have generated excitement both home and abroad.  Gooch has made six appearances for Malaga thus far.  At 30, there is some question whether he is part of Klinsmann’s plans for World Cup Qualification.  His strong, physical presence will be needed, but is fully healthy?  That’s my question.

Speaking of UEFA, word came down that the association plans to hold the 2020 European Championships all over Europe.  Debates regarding the format both make compelling cases: a single or joint venture incorporates visiting fans and the hosts while the new arrangement will allow countries in general and selected cities in particular a chance to participate in this great competition.  I’m open minded at this point.  Strike that.  I don’t really care because with the expansion to 24 teams from 16, it doesn’t really matter at this point.  This is a money grab as most things are.  So UEFA, do what you’re going to do.

Finally, A recent podcast I’ve found is The Big Questions, hosted by Aaron Stollar.  Part of the North American Soccer Network, Aaron looks at issues beyond who won, who lost and news of the day.  On Episode 10, he had Alexi Lalas and Leander Schaerlaeckens on to speculate about what the game of soccer will look like in 50 years.  They examined the fight between international football and club soccer; the speed of the game; the future of US soccer and the possibility of robots.

Exploring the next 20,30, 50 years of American soccer, a possible North American league was discussed.  Hate this.  Travel is the biggest consideration.  Could you imagine Seattle away to Mexico City (2800+ miles)?  The panel also touched on the changing demographics in this country and how that will affect the USMNT.  Finally, time was spent on the structure of MLS, with promotion and relegation not really a possibility due to the financial investment of the owners. Great insights and opinions.  Definitely worth the listen.

Old Futbol Buffet–On to the HEX

Due to work, I could only watch the second half of two games from Europe.

Croatia 2  Wales 0

I tuned in to the match as they showed highlights of the first half.  Comical goal for Croatia as a poor back from a Welsh defender put the GK under pressure.  His clearance hit off Mandzukic and he rolled it in for the opener.  Memories of Paul Robinson from years ago.

In the second half Croatia was all over Wales.  Lewis Price did all he could but eventually Eduardo knocked in the second after the visitors couldn’t clear the ball.  The Welsh tried to get back into the match, with Bale going on several “lung bursting” runs, but no dice.

Spain 1  France 1

The second half started with Spain knocking the ball around, looking dangerous and searching for the killer second goal.  A missed PK by Fabregas in the first half allowed the French to stay close and eventually they turned everything around, with Benzema and Ribery leading the attack the rest of the team completely shutting down the Spanish.  Torres looked awful.

As they tried to close out the game, Cazorla lost it in the corner.  A loose pass from Les Bleus in transition gave the Spanish the ball, but Juanfran (on for the injured Arbeloa) got a little too fancy, lost the ball, and Ribery drove at the goal and crossed in for Giroud who directed the ball into the back of the net.

Graham Hunter still thinks La Furia Roja will win the group but the match revealed some of the weakness of the team’s personnel and tactics.  Everything to play for in March.

Couple of other notes from Europe . . .

As I was trying to stay on top of everything, twitter was buzzing as Sweden came back from 4-0 to tie Germany. Ze Germans were cruising after an hour and then the fireworks.  Christoph at An Old International enjoyed the first two thirds of the match as Germany’s dynamic produced startling results.  But what happened after that?  He points to the defensive frailties that have plagued the team for the last couple of years, using matches against Ukraine, Switzerland and France as reference points.  Plus there was the Italy game last summer, where the Azzurri were organized in defense and clinical in attack.  Germany are still one of the top teams for 2014 but can this generation win before the window closes?

Nathan Motz’s summary of the Portugal v Northern Ireland game (1-1) for Portugoal.net generated a voluminous comment thread with fans throwing out excuses and optimism and player suggestions.  A common theme is to add Danny to the mix as a means of unlocking opposing defenses.  Have to say they need something.  Right now the Portuguese are just not scoring enough and I worry that another slip up may let Israel in to the playoff position.

Moving on to South America . . .

Tim Vickery summed up where things stand in South America qualifying for ESPN FC.  Basically Messi is coming into his own; Uruguay is slipping while Ecuador is rising; Venezuela have a chance at making their first World Cup; and all nations are still in with a shout. Have to disagree on that last one.

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USMNT 3  Guatemala 1

I wasn’t expecting much for this match as both teams only needed a draw to advance.  But then Ruiz scored five minutes in for Guatemala and the blue match paper was well and truly lit.  The US took hold of the game and battered the visitors into submission with three goals before half time.  Johnson and Zusi switched flanks, Bradley was all over the place and the team had an edge to it.  Only have a couple of concerns.  Feel that Williams is just a touch too slow in his decision making.  Could cost them against better opposition.  Bocanegra was restored to the middle and while he did a decent job throughout the match, his lack of pace was exposed on the opener.

The second half was more of what I expected, as the tempo really came to a crawl.  Once I determined that there wasn’t going to be much action, I chatted it up with some of my fellow soccer Mid Michigan United supporters that came out.

Introducing a new blog segment, What We Learned.

  • Shawna has interesting views on our Caribbean neighbors.
  • She really wants everyone to try hot yoga.
  • She doesn’t think Chelsea is the same without Drogba.

 

  • As for Josanna, she is Bohemian.
  • She can work while watching soccer.  Something I fail to do no matter how hard I try.
  • She is playing real soccer this session at Soccer Zone as opposed to the fake soccer she played last session when I was on her team.

Paolo Bandini recapped the game for the Guardian from a deafening Livestrong Park.  He commented on Klinsmann’s first 14 months in charge, noting there is much to be done but having Bradley back in the squad is a big boost.

Grant Wahl focused on Eddie Johnson’s return the National Team for SI.com.  A surprising choice at the outset, the current Seattle Sounder played every minute and had two goals, none more important than the last minute winner in Antigua on Friday night.  Played more of a left mid, he gives depth to the team and will also push the projected starters—Donovan and Shea.

Old Futbol Buffet–Jozy Who?

Heading into Antigua match the US was without Fabian Johnson (flu) Edgar Castillo (foot), Landon Donovan (knee), Brek Shea (abdominal strain) and Jose Torres (foot).  Plus Klinsmann did not pick Jozy Altidore.  The SI Soccer Roundtable panel on 10/11 discussed these issues, with Grant Wahl feeling that now is not the time to be sending messages to players, rather now is the time to qualify for the next round.

Jeff Carlisle looked at Altidore’s omission for ESPN FC, with Klinsmann being clear to the media that he has not been happy with Jozy’s performances during his tenure.  I agree.  I’ve been saying since his introduction to the team that his first touch is poor and his link up play with his teammates is very spotty, all aspects that Carlisle, Klinsmann, Altidore and others identify.  Carlisle also mentions that despite his poor play for the National Team, he should still be in the squad, stating “That’s not to say Altidore should be starting, but omitting him entirely seems a step too far.”

Due to a poker party at my house (read poor planning) I missed the game against Antigua and Barbuda.  I was planning to stay away from the score and watch the replay Saturday night, but finally said screw it.  Eddie Johnson made his mark on his return to the team, validating Klinsmann’s decision to not call in Jozy.  The US secured three points with a 2-1 win on the road in less than perfect conditions and now just require a draw on Tuesday against Guatemala.

Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America did player ratings after the match, with rough scores for Gomez and the center back paring of Goodson and Cameron.  Grant Wahl also shared his thoughts on the game for SI.com.  Johnson saved the proverbial bacon but Grant stated that the US should do better against CONCACAF opposition and that there may be possible regression under Klinsmann.  He did make mention of the impact made by MLS players on the match, including Johnson, Gordon and Zusi.

Looking to South America, I watched highlights from Argentina/Uruguay and Colombia/Paraguay.

Argentina won 3-0 with goals of exceptional quality.  The second was the result of incisive interplay which left Aguero wide open to tap in.  The third was just wrong.  After several blistering free kicks against Real Madrid in the opening weeks of the season, Messi hit a grass cutter that put the game beyond reach.

Colombia kicked Paraguay to the curb 2-0 as Falcao broke a defender’s ankle for the first and schooled a stretched defense for the second.  The result keeps Colombians third but gives them some breathing room above Uruguay

Tim Vickery recapped Friday’s matches for the BBC while looking ahead to Tuesday.  Venezuela could take a big step towards qualifying for their first World Cup if they can get a result in Ecuador.  Meanwhile, early leaders Chile and Uruguay are in free fall.

Circling back to Europe, Andy Brassell saw Capello’s men strike early and frustrate Portugal for ESPN FC, citing that control did not equal creation and Nani did not do enough with his time on the ball.  Plus there is problem up top as Postiga is probably not the player to lead the line.  For the hosts, they were well organized and look to make strides under their Italian coach after a disappointing Euros.

Graham Hunter examined the absence of Mata from the Spanish squad ahead of the two qualifiers.  Like Altidore for the US, it seems strange that the player is not even in the squad.  Mata has been sparkling for Chelsea and surely should be included as an impact sub if things got tricky.  I will be interesting to see his status next spring.  If he remains out in the cold, the situation may become very tense. (Then Spain go out and spank Belarus 4-0.)

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Articles and Podcasts

A fellow soccer player in my area, Peter Alegi, wrote a post about the rise of the bookzine for the blog Football is Coming Home.  Examples would be the Blizzard, XI Quarterly and Howler.  When Jonathan Wilson started promoting the Blizzard on World Football Phone In and the Guardian and other outlets, I was like, Of course.  This medium provides depth and substance to subjects without the pressure of deadlines or the demands of writing an entire book.  Peter’s quote from Matthew Taylor noting the “literaturization of soccer” is spot on.  Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid is perfect example of this, as Wilson examined tactics and how that aspect of soccer influence culture and vice versa in a way that goes beyond the typical soccer magazine or blog.

I have read snippets for XI Quarterly and Howler and have been impressed.  As soon as I get through my current pile of books (Barca, La Roja, and Bloody Confused), I plan to order the issues and get caught up. By the way, the books Peter mentions are fantastic reads and I would highly recommend those and (shameless plug) those listed on my Recommend Reading page.

In the same vein, Aaron Stollar had Howler Magazine’s Mark Kirby and XI Quarterly’s David Keyes on The Big Question podcast to chat about their genesis of each project, influences on their publications and the future of soccer coverage in this country.  Great listen as this country develops its own way of looking at the game.

Rediscovered the site True Colours Football Kits in my travels around the web this week.  John Devlin posted his Football Kit Five Point Plan, which is filled with common sense, meaning that there is no way it will be instituted.  His suggestions including making the life of the jersey at least two years and wearing the home kit as much as possible.  Good read.

Another article I came across was teams sticking to a one dimensional tactic.  James Sanderson spent some time for Football Speak exploring whether a team should devote itself to one style of playing whether that be long ball/route one or the tika taka of FC Barcelona and Spain.  He used the example of Barca in the last two Champions League semis in which they were defeated—Inter in 2010 and Chelsea in 2012.  Desperately needing a goal, the Blaugrana were met by organized buses that thwarted their progression.  Surely they should have a plan B, but they didn’t and still don’t.  James does mention the quandary, If you try to integrate a plan B, you may seriously weaken the fantastic play A.  He also spends some time playing pretend manager—would you rather play against a flexible team, using both current Manchester teams as examples, or an one trick pony?  Does make you think.

Finally, legendary soccer writer Brian Glanville was on the United We Stand pod to talk about Manchester United past, present and future.  Great stories about the Busby Babes were shared as well as comments on Sir Alex, the Glazer’s and the fan experience at Old Trafford.

Old Futbol Buffet–Serbians Be-Deviled

Serbia 0 Belgium 3

I made time for this game to see Belgium’s supposed “Golden Generation”.  Once I saw the team sheet, I was impressed—Hazard, Witsel, Dembele, and a defense featuring Courtois, Vermaelen, Kompany, and Vertonghen.  But the visitors were put under immediate pressure.  Unfortunately, Serbia did not make the breakthrough, which would be their downfall.  The Belgians came into the match, and eventually Benteke scored to put the hosts behind at halftime.  A fantastic cross from De Bruyne (who had a very good match) created the easiest of chances for a striker I wasn’t that impressed with on the whole.

Serbia, despite all their industry and desire, left the pitch with no points because of poor service, not framing the goal properly, and defensive lapses.  Ivanovic was a force the entire match, driving forward on the right hand side but his efforts went unrewarded. Tosic was active on the wing but spurned two solid chances.  Maybe that’s why Sir Alex got rid of him. Brkic did all he could in goal, making a fantastic save on Hazard to keep the score at 1-0.  Fatigue and desperation undid Serbia at the back.  A Serbian cross was served too deep, and from the resulting throw in Benteke shielded the ball before De Bruyne was released.  He sprinted into space and coolly slotted past Brkic.

A third goal was added in stoppage time, and the result flattered the visitors slightly.  Yes they were organized and took the chances, but the hosts could have done so much more. A couple of things I noticed during the match:

  • Lots of loose passes from Dembele.  Against more clinical opposition, he will be punished.
  • Witsel sat in with Chadli and Dembele and shielded the defense.  Width for the Serbians, as in the earlier game I watched (Russia v Portugal) did not pay dividends.
  • Hazard was subbed after 55’ which struck me as strange.  Injured?  Fatigued? Rested for Scotland?

Serbia fell to third but has Macedonia next so they should rebound.  Belgium is tied on top with Croatia, so next spring should be quite interesting.

As for the kits . . .

Loved the Serbia home jersey.  Wasn’t sure about the shorts, but it turns out it was a flag thing.

For the Belgians, their kit is unique.  It is made by a manufacturer that I am unfamiliar with: Burrda Sport.  The jersey is busy but not annoying.  The sublimated crest is a nice touch.

Old Futbol Buffet–Insane Afternoon

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Consider me crazy.

Why I continue to watch any game involving Portugal is beyond me.  They run with purpose and pass the ball and defend and CR7 prances around and then nothing.  No goals, few chances.  I tweeted to a fellow soccer fan after the match:

ME: CR7 is surrounded by players with low soccer IQ’s. he will never win any international trophies.

FAN: mind you, not much anyone can do with this Spain side playing how they are!

ME: true but even as #ESP come back to pack a la #FCB, Portuguese team struggles to score & win important matches. why do i watch?

I’m pretty sure Capello’s pre game notes read grab early goal (check) and soak up pressure (check) and secure three points (check).  Kerzhakov punished a Portuguese turnover as Bruno Alves was out to the lunch in transition.  From there Russia collapsed centrally and allowed the visitors to go wide, where their service was poor, while attempts at interchanging passes around the penalty area ended in frustration.  Portugal’s best chances came from set pieces in which their aerial dominance (Alves in particular) came to the fore.  Had Russia been able to possess better, they could have added several more goals.  As it was they continually gave the ball back and invited the hosts on to them.

Nani was his usual terrible self, mis-hitting crosses and dribbling into pressure, although he had a layoff of exquisite quality that almost led to an equalizer.   Didn’t recognize Coentrao a) because I didn’t realize he was still playing as he has disappeared from RMFC and b) because his highlights were gone, so I looked for a blond haired left back and couldn’t find one.  Unfortunately he went off injured and did not look good.

As for kits, pleasing to the eye.  Both are still wearing their kits from Euro 2012 and here were my thoughts going into that tournament:

The Russians return to a redder red instead of the maroon version of 2010 (which was released as a World Cup kit before they were eliminated by Slovenia).  Usually I go for the sash, but the Russian kit doesn’t work for me, especially since the sublimated design looks like chain mail.

portugal-euro-2012-away-shirt

The Portuguese kit is simple and clean.  Not as good as the home but fine nonetheless.

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