Celebrating club football and shining the light on incompetent and biased journos indulging in stereotyping and negativity.
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It is done. The only South American team in the last 4 in South Africa, the one that had that mystical challenger air about them, that lived and died as a team, the one should have gone to the final in South Africa – they have finally done it. The 2011 Copa America title goes to Uruguay, and with the prestige of topping the list of the South American team with the most Copa America titles (15, one ahead of Argentina).
It’s not often that I can get excited about national football, but this is an exception (although not for the 1st time, since we had nothing but praise for this squad in South Africa), because there is something very strong and club-like in the unity of performance of this team. And it should not be any surprise to anyone that they have succeeded (if the 3-0 score leaves any doubts, please address your queries to Dr. Ruth). Collectively they were already very strong last year, finding offensive inspiration and defensive grinta where others could only shrug their shoulders in desperation. Since then, they have also progressed individually, be it Suarez, who seems to have gained additional speed of execution and killer nous, be it Alvaro Pereira, who has gained in serenity and experience in beating many a Portuguese national record with Porto, be it Muslera who helped Lazio climb further than rarely before in recent years, or Edison Cavani, who feats have given Napolitans a chance to dream of European glories again.
But again, it must be emphasized that this is the fruit of a splendid team performance: what is remarkable about this Uruguay squad is the sense of equilibrium about the whole squad. And although Forlan invariably rates as a fuoriclasse in many eyes (and again proved it by lethal administering of 2 deadly blows this evening), it is not for his outlandish speed (like CR9) or his elfish dribbling skils (well, on the basis of looks, it should be dwarfish, but I’m feeling generous tonight). It’s for his grace, his tireless work rate, the regularity, awesome sense of positioning and above all humility in a collective effort. For were it not without the hunger and the assist from hound dog no.1 Rios for the 2nd goal, he would not be on the score sheet. Were it not for Diego Perez’s constant intimidation of the Paraguayan midfield, the blues may not have kept a clean sheet. Likewise for Alvaro Gonzales, who undoubtedly piled on crucial physical pressure on the already depleted Paraguay squad with his constant rapid forays into the red and white space, as well as the grinding but also creative efforts supplied by defenders Maxi Pereira and Cacéres (viva Sevilla). And of course let us not forget the central defense, Coates and that classy blonde Lugano, a pair that between should have got their combined skills converted into a goal if not at least a penalty in the early minutes of the game, but the referees missed an obvious handball.
Naysayers will be pushing off their stools in outrage to point out:
- Brazil or Argentina weren’t in their top form. For the former, see a perfect summary of their shortcomings on WSC here, while what’s new for the latter? Apart from the Olympics, when has Argentina been anything else but underwhelming? Besides, they had their chance against Uruguay and did not manage to get past.
- Paraguay were depleted by injuries of key players. True that, but they weren’t helped either by the coach’s changes in the 2nd half (why bring an injured Barrios on?) and that’s part of the game – managing your squad until the very end.
- Uruguay were basically overall very lucky.
But as I have pointed out previously, luck is simply preparation meeting opportunity. And these boys were well prepared. Congratulations, Diego & the celeste, you deserve it.
(*) Grandad and father have won one too.
It’s been a GREAT week in football – it is indeed very rare that things go so well in terms of combined successes of favorite teams:
- Inter beat a plucky and very well organized Lecce side who simply refused to go down until the very end and whose only mistake was to allow Pazzo Pazzini a little bit too much space to create the decider. As Leonardo pointed out in the interview after the game, it shows that there are no simple games in the calcio, and certainly none that you can count on winning with a cigarette in the mouth. Inter will regret the fact that Lucio received a yellow card that – added to his collection – will force him to miss the derby with Milan but on the other hand there is much to laud in Chivu’s performance in his original role as central defender. As Milan lost on Saturday away at Palermo, the gap between the two is now -2 points. However it’s getting ever tighter at the top as both Udinese and Napoli, led by the ever inspired Cavani who netted a double, won their games, so there is no room for complacency at the top for anybody.
- In Spain, Sevilla grabbed 3 points on the road against Valencia, thanks to a single goal by Rakitic. Coming after the heroic performance and achievement of holding Barcelona at home, this is a very important for Sevilla’s bid to secure a European spot – they are now just 1 point of Espanyol and Atletico who are both on 43 points in 5th and 6th position respectively. The top 3 all won: Real overcome city rivals Atletico by two goals to one, Barcelona managed the same score at home against Getafe, while Villareal’s single goal away at Bilbao proved enough.
- In England, Arsenal again dropped 2 points and might have dropped more were it not for a spirited comeback with goals by the brilliant Arshavin and still vibrant Van Persil. Spurs fans in particular will surely have lots of laughs for the next two weeks rewinding over Arsenal’s defense’s latest blunder – more cringe than an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7.
Man U grabbed a point from Bolton in the dying moments of the game through an unexpected rebound ball provoked by Berbatov, while both Chelsea and Liverpool dispatched their opponents Manchester City and Sunderland (respectively) with two goals apiece and a clean sheet. Spurs couldn’t put one past a resurgent West Ham. Fellow bottom tablers Wigan and Wolves both grabbed full 3 points, confirming that the final games will ensure more drama for bottom 8 teams who are within 3 points of each other.
- In France, Marseille beat PSG in the not so enticing hexagonal classico that is no more but could have been, thanks to an André Ayew header. Lille is still in the lead thanks to beating Brest away by 2 goals to 1 as well as the tie between aspiring challengers Lyon and Rennes who tied at Gerland. Lens pulled off the surprise of the weekend beating Montpellier away 4 goals to 1, which drew some interesting comments from the ever controversial Lulu Nicolin.
- In Germany, 4th placed Bayern bounced back from their defeat to Inter with a victory over Freiburg, while Hamburg fancied themselves a tennis player and slammed Koln by 6-2 to lift their spirits from their defeat against the Bavarians last week-end, with Croatian international Petric providing 3. Leaders Dortmund dropped 2 points in a tie with 5th placed Mainz who thereby confirm their good run, and so Leverkusen’s win over Schalke 04 (with one goal provided by another Swiss player Derdiyok) still gives them some hopes of challenging for the title but it will be tough. Third placed Hannover overcame Hoffenheim.
In addition, there were some super goals this weekend that are definitely worth a mention – see if you can catch them on youtube or wherever else it is you go for your replays:
- Jelen 1st (and 2nd in fact) with Auxerre against Sochaux: another classic by the always electric Pole (pun intended). Got to see you back in form, Ireneusz.
- Luis Suarez for Liverpool’s 2nd against Sunderland: glad to see new “conejo” doing so well, even if it is with Liverpool. Mind you, without Stevie G and in black, they’re becoming almost watchable. If they could lose a few more of the less attractive facets brought in by the formerly much celebrated Spaniard with a goatee (notably Carragher. Lucas and possibly Kuyt too), they might actually become sympathetic.
- Charlie Adam’s free kick for his 2nd against Blackburn on Saturday – class.
- Gervinho’s goal for Lille’s 2nd against Brest: kind of similar to that scored by Luis Suarez.
- Chelsea’s 2nd goal by Ramires, against Manchester City: a cheeky entry with the ball through City’s defense, followed by a very confident slot-in to the left. It is great to see the Brazilian finally hailed by Stamford Bridge, he has been one of the most consistent (though admittedly not the brightest) of Chelsea’s players this season, grinding away in midfield like a gremlin that’s just had a swim. His fellow countryman David Luiz is also doing very well and outshining most of his colleagues.
- Real Madrid’s goals against Atletico – the 1st by Karim Benzema and the 2nd by Ozil – are both quite nice. Check out also the splendid strike by former Sevillanista Daniel Alves as well as Manu’s goal for Getafe in this summary. By the way, did anyone notice that by the end of the game there were no less than 3 former Sevillanistas on the pitch for Barça at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last week? Daniel Alves, Seydou Keita and Adriano had all plied their trade in Andalucia before heading north for the big bucks. No wonder I’m feeling a little bitter.
- Speaking of Udinese, their opener against Catania by the Swiss international Inler will undoubtedly have Swiss fans wondering why the national side cannot manage better results than 0-0 against Malta. A small mention for Roma’s Francesco Totti who pulled off another double, helped with a penalty for his 200th goal in the calcio. No doubt he was motivated by the idea of denying his old enemy Sinisa Mihajlovic the full 3 points; there’s nothing like derby motivation.