Celebrating club football and shining the light on incompetent and biased journos indulging in stereotyping and negativity.
Tag Archives: Wigan
So the European national football championship is finally off to a great start, and I am not talking about the ceremony, which is scrupulously avoided by monitoring the Djokovic-Federer game that was on at the same time. No, the appraisal refers to the opening game opposing 1/2 hosts Poland to Europe’s boo boys, Greece. Although it ended 1-1 after Greek captain Karagounis failed to take the advantage for his side from a penalty kick, it was a most entertaining and fairly dramatic affair, with Borussia Dortmund’s in form hot commodity striker Lewandowski confirming his potential by grabbing his first of the tournament. The two red cards, one for each side, also raised the intensity. Though Greece will rue the missed penalty that could have brought them precious 3 points, they can probably be quite satisfied to grab one point from this first and always delicate fixture against the hosts where they were clearly not the favorites.
What follows is less match commentary than a team review, the format of which I will try to build on during the following games – enjoy, comments welcome.
Poland-Greece, Friday June 8, 2012 – 18h kick-off
Greece Team Profile
Hollywood factor: This one has to go to Giorgos Samaras as young Evan Almighy, although defender’s Holebas haircut and vociferous complaining to the ref (after claims for a penalty for a handball by Polish defender Perquis fell on deaf ears) could easily have him landing a minor role in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.
Old/mean man kudos: Either captain Karagounis, for sheer experience, or Dimitris Salpingidis the goalscorer, for his greater “300” hard man coefficient (respectable beard helping).
French connection (1): A lonely Giorgos Tzavellas (on the bench, unsubstituted) featured in this year’s resurgent Monaco side. Otherwise it is difficult challenge to make the connection, as Greek players resolutely prefer the German Bundesliga as their main export destination. Who says Greeks and Germans can’t get along? Or that the Greeks don’t fancy the Euro?
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: I could see Roberto Martinez fancying the deft footwork of young Ninis to rejuvenate his Wigan side. Otherwise, Sam Allardyce may already be on the phone for hard man Salpingidis.
Poland Team Profile
Hollywood factor: In the tradition of the inimitable Ralph Macchio, we could easily see the hosts’ goalkeeper, Szczesny, adopt the funky “Z-man” moniker (on the strength of the two Z’s in his name) and develop a great career playing nerdy kids up until the age of 40.
Old/mean man kudos: none whatsoever – this is clearly a bunch of young boys with plenty of acne to boot, à la Gunners quoi. The only alternative may be coach Smuda, but only if eligibility guidelines are relaxed.
French connection (1): Ludovic Obraniak, the “outsider” to this team who has shown his talent at Bordeaux this season after leaving Lille following their title win in 2011. Too bad he couldn’t demonstrate more of that on the few opportunities he had to make the difference this evening.
New hype kid most touted to join the English Premier League: Though his complex name may considerably reduce journo enthusiasm, Błaszczykowski’s carefully crafted metro-sexual (Beckham-approved) hairstyle, as well as regular forays into the final 3rd of the opposition’s half, and the superb cross for the first goal, will surely suffice to make him a UK tabloid darling for a reasonably priced move to the EPL – at the very least at QPR, maybe even for Liverpool (if Benitez was still there). Alternatively, Newcastle United might be tempted to increase their francophone credentials with Obraniak. Failing all that, Lewandowski might also find his way there, perhaps at Arsenal with his buddy Szczesny (especially if RVP moves on).
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Historic moment of the match: in a heavily symbolic moment that will have the rest of Europe cheering in approval, the unfortunately (Tintin baddie-like) named Greek defender Papastathopoulos sees the first red of the tournament, as Greece is reduced to 10 men. Cue riots in Athens.
Hero of the game: it’s a close call between super subs Dimitris Salpingidis (goal + won penalty for the Greeks) and Przemyslaw Tyton, the sub goalie whose first intervention consisted in saving the penalty shot from Karagounis.
(1) According to the official French media essential elements guide by the excellent Subfoot.com (read article), there has to be one.
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.