Archive for the ‘porto’ Category

The Champions League last 16 draw is complete and the results are official. Kudos to you if you actually woke up at 4 am this morning to catch it live (you’re a true soccer lover in our book).

Oddly enough, it was the exact same outcome as Wednesday’s rehearsal. Yes, we too are trying to figure out the math behind those probabilities, still working on it though.

Nonetheless, here are the results:

Real Madrid vs Manchester United
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Milan vs Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Celtic vs Juventus
Porto vs Malaga
Valencia vs Paris Saint-Germain
Galatasaray vs Schalke

Arguably, the road only gets harder from here on. With the most talked about pairing this morning: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United. With both the English and the Spanish media calling it ‘mouth-watering’, but whether or not it’ll live up to its description only time will tell. On paper at least it does appear to have all the ingredients for a great showdown.

Not only because they’re both strong teams, but also because there’s a brief, yet exciting history behind the two clubs. Both teams haven’t gone head-to-head for the past nine years. The last time they did meet it was a feast for the eyes with Madrid triumphing 6-5 on aggregate.

As with this upcoming match, that one also featured a Ronaldo, the Brazilian who scored a hat-trick at Old Trafford. Only this time around it’ll be Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international will return to his old playground since his move in 2009.

Not to be left out of the equation, is the face-off between old rivals Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, two of the best coaches in the game. Both are strategic and excellent tacticians with either one able to outsmart the other.

Of course, this Madrid team isn’t the same team as that of 2003, which included the likes of Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo, Carlos, Makelele. In fact, some might argue this isn’t even the same team as last year. Madrid has been struggling domestically this season and are 13 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona. Still, with its ability to play a very high-paced and attacking game, the Los Blancos will be a handful for United.

As for the Red Devils, the outcome of this phase will likely put to rest some of the criticism it’s been receiving about its strength on the European stage. This will test if United is still a powerhouse in Europe or only in the Premier League.

But with all the hype surrounding this match, let’s not forget about the seven other incredible matches in the competition.

As viewers it’s natural to gravitate to the teams we support or to the coupling of two (yet not the only) big names. Except that the most talked about coupling may or may not turn out to be the more entertaining soccer.

It seems like viewers of this sport are creatures of habit. Did we already forget about the group of death? Experts and pundits initially branded it not only as the toughest group (rightly so), but also as the one that would probably offer the most enjoyable soccer. Enjoyable? Meh! It was decent soccer, which never really lived up to expectations.

There were certainly individual teams in that group, which played exciting football such as Borussia Dortmund. But was it the best soccer in the Champions League group stage with respect to battles? You be the judge of that.

As for the Bayern and Arsenal match-up, while the former are clear favourites, one shouldn’t rule out the latter. After all, the Bavarians were upstaged at home in last year’s final by none other than Chelsea, who were the weaker team with all odds against them, but luck.

Then there’s Barcelona against AC Milan, a rivalry rich in history and championships that may prove to be a tighter race than expected. But the biggest surprise of the tournament were Celtic, which is why Antonio Conte just revealed today that he won’t underestimate them, especially after they managed to pull off a win against Barcelona.

I personally think Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk will provide viewers with some unbelievable soccer. But this is the beauty of the game as well as the Champions League. Not only is it unpredictable in nature, as last year validated, but it’s also offers something for an array of tastes.

England

Liverpool will face Zenit in the next round of Europa League.

Wenger squashes rumour, says he has the full support of the board.

Italy

Juve will not underestimate Celtic.

La Liga

Barcelona confirm Vilanova underwent surgery.

Germany

Thomas Tuchel taking Mainz 05 to new heights.

A great review of German soccer both internationally and domestically.

Bit and Bobs

Michael Cox discusses Champions League tactics.

Zidane goal in charity match.

Game in a sentence

PSG overtake Porto for Group A honours thanks to the latest in horrific goalkeeping blunders.

Observations

  • Carlo Ancelotti’s job was on the line. The Parisian big boys had lost three of their last five games, the latest failure coming away against mid table Nice this past weekend. With Pep Guardiola reportedly hanging in Doha with PSG’s money men, speculation regarding Ancelotti’s future had increased. The two time champions league winner had come under fire for prioritizing Europe over the league — even though PSG last won the latter in 1994. Winning Group A would quiet the Parisian back pages for a couple days.
  • Ancelotti’s starting eleven indicated PSG would be going for the result at full cost, relegating Marco Verratti to the bench in favour of an attack minded lineup. Vitor Pereira’s side didn’t come to Paris in search of a draw, stating “this club lives off victories” before the match. The Dragões had failed to win just twice in their last 12 fixtures, including a loss to Braga in the Portuguese cup on Friday.
  • The first half didn’t disappoint. PSG’s exploits in the opening ten minutes of the game left Porto’s defenders gasping for air. Probing runs from Lavezzi, Menez and Pastore, created by excellent delieveries from Maxwell and Ibrahimiovic, led to a decided edge in corners for the Parisians. Porto’s inability to deal with set pieces would eventually hurt them.
  • Menez in particular was lively, drawing a yellow card on Nicolás Otamendi in the 29th minute after beating him on the outside. On the ensuing free kick Thiago Silva’s powerful header opened PSG’s account. Maxwell’s delivery was superb.
  • Their ability to score was never in question, but PSG’s defensive capabilities would be called into doubt just four minutes later.  After brushing aside Pastore’s ‘attempt’ — drive by flailing a more accuarate description — at dispossession, Danilo found Jackson Martinez in the box. The Colombian striker made no mistake (he hasn’t made one in some time), leveling the game at ones. Alex’s marking left a lot to be desired.
  • In all the first half was a treat to watch. Wide open play coupled with differing styles on the counter were on display throughout. While PSG’s quality on the flanks afforded them chances on Helton’s goal, their lack of presence in the middle of the pitch was glaring. Fernando, Lucho and Moutinho were having their way. Blaise Matuidi resembled a man who had played too much football.
  • The second half began much like the first, with PSG hurtling down the left flank. Pastore and Menez were active once again, the latter drawing a save from Helton in the 50th minute.
  • In the end this one would be decided by the keepers. Lavezzi’s game winner in the 61st minute will go down as the latest in a series of howlers that have plagued football. Helton’s attempt at saving a relatively weak shot was cringe worthy theatre. On the other end Sirigu foiled an excellent chance from Martinez in the 70th minute — the chance a product of PSG’s wasteland in the middle of the pitch and a great pass from Moutinho.
  • Finally, in the 77th minute Carlo inserted Marco Verratti for Lavezzi. Almost immediately a sense of order was restored to the PSG midfield.
  • Though they couldn’t find an equalizer, Porto should be buoyed by their performance. Otamendi’s free header in extra time was their chance to go top of the group, but wasn’t to be.
  • The knives destined for Ancelotti will be resheathed for now as PSG’s quest for European silverware remains on track. Porto is a team none of the group winners relish facing in the final 16. Arsenal on the other hand…
Three Stars
1. Jeremy Menez
2. Thiago Silva
3. Nicolas Otamendi

There was once a player for Cóndor de Bogotá in Colombia’s second division who liked to dance whenever he found the back of the net. “The Cha-Cha-Cha was in fashion at the time and I celebrated my goals to this rhythm,” he told Maisfutebol. It would become his trademark, so much so that supporters at the Estadio Alfonso López Pumarejo nicknamed him Cha-Cha-Cha.

That player was Orlando Martínez. When his son Jackson followed in his footsteps and made it as a professional footballer, a number of things were passed down from one generation to another. “He got the goals and the nickname,” wrote Pedro Jorge da Cunha. Unlike his father, however, Jackson also got a move to Europe. And there the beat goes on.

Six goals in his first nine games for Porto indicate that finding his groove on the other side of the Atlantic hasn’t posed much of a problem. Jackson has instead helped resolve a rather difficult one for his new club side.

When Radamel Falcao was sold to Atlético Madrid for €40m in 2011, Porto had a hard time replacing him. That was to be expected of course. Falcao had scored 41 goals in 51 games for the club and was a member of the Porto side that went unbeaten in his final season at the Dragão, winning the Primeira Liga, the Taça de Portugal, the Portuguese Super Cup and the Europa League under André Villas-Boas.
Read the rest of this entry »

Two stops before the Estádio do Dragão, there’s a station on Porto’s metro called Heroísmo. Granted, it’s probably not the way James Rodríguez gets to work, although one can imagine him, if he weren’t a footballer, standing in line at the ticket machines, his back-pack on, topping up his Andante Azul card.

Even so, Heroísmo seems like the right place to start in discussing Rodríguez. Acts of heroism have been his forte on the pitch this season for Porto. After last Wednesday night’s magnificent performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, the newspaper O Jogo printed the headline: “O Incrível James.”

Its inference couldn’t have been more pointed.

With “The Incredible Hulk” sold to Zenit St.Petersburg for €60m at the beginning of September, Porto’s succession planning had once again worked. To be clear, Rodríguez isn’t exactly a like-for-like replacement for Hulk. True, they have both played on the right wing for Porto, but it’s enough to glance at their contrasting physiques—one lightweight, wiry and boy-like, the other heavyweight, muscular and manly—to realise as much.

What they do have in common, however, is that they’re both match-winners.
Read the rest of this entry »

A few weeks ago, near the end of the August transfer window, Jonathan Wilson wrote a column on the changing face of Russian football, transformed by a particularly cash-splashy transfer window at Zenit St. Petersburg:

In an otherwise fairly sedate last week of the transfer window, the startling move came from Zenit St Petersburg, who spent £83m to land Givanildo “Hulk” Souza and Axel Witsel from Porto. Even Russians seem a little bewildered by Hulk’s arrival. An interview in Sport-Express reminded the Brazilian that last year he had said he would only leave Porto for a “great” club. “The most important thing for me right now is to do well in the Russian league, to take Zenit to first place and to help Zenit get as close as possible to the Champions League,” he replied. “These challenges come from a proposal the club from St Petersburg made to me. In addition, I had a lot of discussions with the president of Zenit and discussed everything with him.”

Prior to this summer, the only Russian club which popped up in various bits of unconfirmed transfer news was the unpronounceable Anzhi Makhachkala. Despite the presense of Samuel Eto’o and manager Guus Hiddink, and a reputation for being a hilarious outlier, Anzhi hardly sport a star squad.
Read the rest of this entry »

By Kieran Canning

“I’m speechless. I really can’t describe it. What Radamel is doing is indescribable. He’s a lad that whenever you set the bar high, he sets it higher and rises to the occasion. He has dedication above and beyond what is normal.”

Diego Simeone is a hard-nosed Argentine better known for the cynicism that got David Beckham sent-off at the 1998 World Cup than for dishing out compliments, so when he issues high praise there’s usually a special reason. Radamel Falcao’s recent form certainly applies.

The Colombian scored again on Tuesday night as Los Cafeteros edged closer to their first participation at a World Cup in 12 years with a 3-1 win in Chile to back up a resounding 4-0 win over Copa America champions Uruguay on Friday.

Unsurprisingly, the 26-year-old was the catalyst then too as he stroked home the opener within two minutes, prompting one Spanish commentator to exclaim, “A man with such confidence it is simply terrifying.”

Simeone’s praise came two weeks ago on the back of Falcao’s scintillating destruction of Chelsea as Atlético Madrid lifted the European Super Cup. His first-half hat-trick was his second that week, as he had already returned to haunt Athletic Bilbao with three goals in a 4-0 win four days earlier.

His start to the season, tagged onto his finish to the last, mean he has now netted 14 times in his last 15 outings, and yet his 24 league goals last season weren’t even enough to merit Atlético a place in this season’s Champions League.
Read the rest of this entry »