Friday, September 15, 2006

In which the Czechs fare only moderately well and Serie A surprises me

I had hoped to write about yesterday's first round UEFA Cup match between Marseilles and Mlada Boleslav, but alas, of the four Czech teams playing yesterday, only Slavia Praha v. Tottenham Hotspurs was televised. So we headed on down to soccer standby the Marathon ($3.75 chicken gyros!) to check out the Czechs (sorry for that).

I did have some residual sympathy for the Spurs owing to their unfortunate gastoenteritis incident at the end of last season. I can't say the match was all that exciting; as I pointed out to Derek and Lisa, I somehow persist in believing that one of these unknown little teams will rise up to truly challenge the Goliaths despite their persistent demonstrations of mediocrity. But it does happen just often enough to keep the hope alive, and I'll never be one of those proponents of shrinking the pool of eligible teams with the idea that it will save us all the trouble of less-than-spectacular matches (because, as we all know, big teams always provide excellent football, right? Riiight.) The announcers mentioned that Slavia Praha had three teenagers on their team and I gotta say some of those boys didn't quite look old enough to drive; were they pressganging youngsters from local schoolyards?

In a moment reminiscent of England substitute keeper Robert Green's pre-World Cup injury during the Belarus friendly, Slavia Praha goalkeeper Michal Vorel collapsed following a goal kick about 25 minutes in. It seems it's rarely anything but a team's death knell when the keeper has to be replaced, and SP fared no better. They seemed to fall apart after a nice goal by Tottenham's Jermaine Jenas at 37 minutes, and though they pulled themselves together at the half, played considerably better, and tried hard for an equalizer, they just didn't have the skill and the final whistle blew with the score at 0-1. Oh, some stuff happened around the 60th minute which resulted in a free kick for SP but we missed that because once it started to rain really hard, the satellite went out for a while. As the waitress remarked dryly, you'd think that if you sold a service in Portland, you'd make sure it actually worked in the rain, but there it is.

Poor little Mlada Boleslav didn't even rate a mention in the post-match reports on Setanta, but their fate was the same as Slavia Praha's, while Sparta Praha and Slovan Liberec won their games. Lineups and links to match reports can be found at the always-informative Czech Football Daily.

Later on yesterday, I caught a thrilling Serie A match between Inter and Fiorentina. Now that was some football! I was so taken with the sight of Argentina's Cambiasso and Crespo on the pitch again, plus Figo to boot, that I fell instantly for Inter, though I found myself rooting for a Luca Toni hat trick to tie things up. Is anyone in Italian football more entertaining to watch? He's not just a great footballer; he plays up the theatrics for the guy at the very top of the stadium. He doesn't just suffer more! plead more! get more surprised! than anyone else on the pitch, he even sweats more than the other players. I swear he does that on purpose. This one ended 2-3; on the heels of the World Cup and yesterday's match I officially repudiate anything I ever said about il calcio being dull. Now I just gotta find a channel where I can watch Juve storming their way back into Serie A, with del Piero at the helm, Buffon holding things down, and my beloved Pavel Nedved as the hero of the day!

No comments: