Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Racing Santander v. Barcelona

Three goals in seven minutes from three different players. And by the 27th minute of the first half, it wouldn’t have been arrogant to consider the game over. I’m surprised that Racing Santander didn’t just turn out the lights in the stadium during half-time so that their shell-shocked supporters could split to feed their sorrows with plentiful plates of boquerones and mugs of Estrella Galacia. Surrender now before things got even worse and Barcelona really started getting their groove on.

But this is football. Teams, especially good and respectable teams like Racing, don’t give in even when they’re obviously outclassed by the flashier more powerful Barça. Still, it’s got to be rough for their fans. I don’t think anyone would have blamed them if they’d ditched their team and headed for the exits.

But this is football and supporters don’t do that. Ever. Thankfully, Óscar Serrano gave the home fans something to cheer about in the 72nd minute when he slipped the ball through defender Rafa Marquez’s feet and scored one past keeper Victor Valdes who seriously didn’t have much to do before then.

It’s been a good four weeks of La Liga and it’s difficult to imagine but Barça look even stronger than they did last season. I wasn’t sure how Ibrahimovic was going to fit into the squad—he seemed selfish and petulant to me while playing at Inter and for the Swedish national team—but his kinetic repartee with Messi, keen vision, and physical strength up front is excellent and he’s fun to watch. He’s also more dependable than either Eto’o or Henry when it comes to finishing.

I know it’s early still, but I think Barça are realistically on their way toward another brilliant season.

Racing Santander 1, Barcelona 4.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bring Me the Head of Diego Maradona

One of the great heartbreaks of my soccer-watching life was watching Argentina lose against Germany in the quarter finals of the 2006 World Cup. But I knew that with so many great players in the squad--Messi, Riquelme, Crespo, Aimar, Cambiasso, Coloccini, Tevez, Mascherano, Zanetti, Milito, Heinze, and others--that they'd arrive in South Africa ready to make things right. Unfortunately, many of the above players (Riquelme, Crespo, Aimar, Cambiasso, Coloccini) are no longer on the team for various reasons. Messi, so brilliant with Barcelona, is played as a striker instead of the gadfly forward Pep utilizes, and Tevez and Palermo (Palermo!) are disappointing to say the least.

So what's it going to take for the once-great player to step down from managing the Argentinian national squad? With the team currently in fifth place in their World Cup qualifying group and at risk of not making it into the tournament next summer, is Maradona so untouchable that he can't be fired? Is he so arrogant that he can't see that the best thing for the team, for his country, is to walk away after last night's defeat against Paraguay?

Don't answer the last question. I should know better than to ask it.