sports


The scene is all set for a great end of the European football season.

source http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/final/stadium/index.html

The arena is one of the greatest stadiums in the history of the sport, renovated a few years ago.

The teams are probably the best two teams in Europe this year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjSFVd5m2BQ

(video source TheCrustyAss)

On one side we have Manchester United – the club that dominated the last half of the century in the country of birth of the game. Under manager Alex Ferguson they have won every important title in the last decade, and they seem to be fighting only with their own glory and place in the history. Their offensive star Wayne Rooney overcame a period of eclipse and became again the amazing striker he can be, pocketing also an amazing contract during the season.

(video source LMProductions10)

On the other side we have Barcelona, the winner this year as in most of the previous years of the traditional rivalry with Real Madrid in Spain. Manager Pep Guardiola is one generation younger than Ferguson, but his name is as identified with his club as is the Scott’s name with United. The Catalan club overcame a financial crisis this year to achieve a splendid season, and their star Lionel Messi has already entered the gallery of the best players in the history of the game, and he is not yet 24.

I dare not make any prognostic, games at this level can end with any result, and I only wish that the match this evening will be at the height of the expectations.

Rugby is one of my favorite sport disciplines, and watching the 6 Nations Rugby tournament http://www.rbs6nations.com/en/home.php is the major sporting event for me during the months of February and March. The competition was this year as interesting as ever, with a few records broken and a few surprises that made it interesting until the last day. Actually that last day on Saturday was one of the most interesting final days I can remember.

source http://www.rbs6nations.com

The first match in the afternoon faced Scotland and Italy, the last two teams in the table fighting to avoid the undesirable wooden spoon trophy for the last place. Italy came after a sensational victory a week before against France, their first in an official 6 Nations game, and they seemed to continue to ride the wave leading 8-6 at mid-time. Scotland came back strongly however in the second half, and with 15-0 the second half score they ensured a 21-8 victory and avoided the last place.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhTkOFFl_1A

(video source comeonmunstertv)

For the second game of the day England went to Dublin with the plans to achieve the Grand Slam – meaning win the championship with a neat five victories balance. They did not take into consideration the ambition Ireland puts in any match against England, doubling their skills. Ireland played the perfect game on Sunday Ireland beating England 24-8.

source http://www.rbs6nations.com

One of the three tries of Ireland in the game belonged to Brian O’Driscoll and made him the Championship’s all time leading try scorer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63IzktEX3WY

(video source stop727)

Suddenly England’s wining of the tournament seemed under threat, as Wales who traveled to Paris for the final game of the day could beat France and sneak into the first place at the last moment. However France who had a very uneven season this year played their best game, while the Welsh seemed to be overwhelmed by the opportunity. Eventually it was France who beat Wales by a comfortable 28-9 handling England the victory in this year’s tournament – a deserved first place as the English team dominated the season with the exception of this last day.

Despite all fears, despite the apparently slow start, and despite having lost before the semifinals all teams who were potentially playing the flamboyant and spectacular football we love to praise, but which did not prove itself on the stadiums for the last three World Cups, the 2010 edition proved to be a success, not falling with anything from the previous editions, with one exception – the bloody vuvuzelas. I hope that these noise making devices will stay in South Africa and will not make their way to, or even better, will be forbidden in Europe and the rest of the world. With the vuvuzelas almost permanently on the background World Cup 2010 lost one dimension of the football show – the sound of the crowds in the stadium and the feedback of the tribunes to what was happening on the field. I hope they will go away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBxGkCPhqqA

(video source GotFAL)

At start we all had the impression that the European teams are too tired for the competition, as result of the long and exhausting seasons the top teams and players play in Europe, including the national leagues and cup competition and the mid-week Chanpions League. Actually it was mostly the internal problems of teams like France and the lack of imagination of the managers of England and Italy that put these teams out of competition at a relative early stage. At some point, in the quarters it looked like all four semi-finalists may be from South America, but then both great favorites Brazil and Argentina were out of the competition, and the South American dream final remained just a dream. Whether Maradona is a great team manager or is no manager at all remains an open question. For sure Dunga is a mediocre one. African teams completely failed to capitalize on the World Cup being played in an African country, and the next opportunity may not come that soon.

Did eventually the best team win? I personally doubt. I have the feeling that if Germany and Spain were to play ten games, Germany would win six, but it may bot be the important ones. Fact is that Spain already beat Germany in the European championship final and in the World Cup semifinal, this is what counts, the rest is fantasy. So yes – the team who put the right goals at the right time won, and this is what counts.

The final game was an all-European affair. I started by siding with Netherlands, but because of their brutal game I ended by favoring Spain, and I am glad that they won. Four times 1-0 as Spain won all its games in the elimination phases is no good PR for spectacular football, but the team is great, and it is actually the only team in the competition that got close to the value of its individual players.

This World Cup also put under question mark the referees decisions in some of the matches. I think that the referees were not as guilty or incompetent, but rather the games were sometimes so fast that they overwhelmed them. It was a good thing that such a mistake as the one in the game between Germany and England happened here – at any other places and without hundreds of millions of witnesses it would not have led to the change in the game rules that I am sure will take place pretty soon and bring soccer closer to fairness, thanks to technology already used in other sport disciplines.

At this very minute it’s fiesta time in Spain. Congratulations, Spain! Viva Espana!

Tonight takes place the opening ceremony of what is considered by most sport fans in the world with the exception of (some) Americans the greatest sport competition of the planet – the FIFA World Cup Final Tournament. I am no fan of opening ceremonies, for me the sports action is what counts, so today is still a day of relaxation and expectation before the games that start tomorrow. However, starting with tomorrow, if you will find me less active on the blog, you know the reason.

There are many intriguing questions related to this tournament. Will South Africa prove itself as a competent host for a competition that draws so much attention and passion from people from all over the world? Will any of the African teams be able to use the continental advantage at the same extent the Asian teams use it in the Japan-Korea World Cup eight years ago? Which one of the big stars of the moment will shine brighter – Messi? Ronaldo? Rooney? Robben? Who will be the Cinderella team of this World Cup? Who will win? Who will mark more goals? Who will go home disappointed first?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07K_kHV7BXk&feature=related

(video source TerenceLFC)

With my two national teams safely watching the games from their sofas I can also relax and enjoy the tournament without big passions. I did chose however a favorite of mine, and the song selected for this blog entry hints about who they are. The hip-hop version of ‘Shout for England’ sang by James Corden and Dizzee Rascal is a mix of a song from the 80s by Tears for Fears.

There are less than 24 hours before the first two teams enter the field. By tomorrow the four years wait is over. Let the games begin!

I had too little time to watch the Winter Olympics this year. It is only last night when under the pressure of my fellows (mostly North American on the two sides of the border) on the Internet lists I stood to watch the final event – the big final of the hockey tournament. Same as the marathon race for the Summer Olympics is not only the last but also the jewel in the Olympic crown and the essence and symbol of the games.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZsDTMSWDdo

(video by ittnnews)

And what a game it was. There are a few memorable events a sport fan never forgets, these events where sport raises to art, where the best thriller is shadowed by the events in the field. I lived through a few of these – the 1966 final Game of the World Cup where Germany was beaten by England, the first win at Wimbledon by Boris Becker in 1985 at the age of 17, Liverpool coming back from 0-3 and beating Milan to win the Champions League in 2005.

And now this game. The Canadians were better in the first two thirds and led 2-0, but the Americans made a splendid comeback. In the last minutes at 1-2 the American coach replaced the goalkeeper by an offensive player and his team equalized 28 seconds before the end of the game. And then, in the overtime, the Canadians were better again and scored the final goal.

At this level of the game the victory could have gone any side. At such moments sport skills count as much as luck or maybe call it destiny. And yet, in a final game there can be only one winner. This overtime system where the team that scores takes it all is called sudden death. It is indeed sudden death for the team that loses, and eternal Olympic glory for the winners.The host crowds were delighted and the wonderful city of Vancouver (which I visited a few times) as the whole Canada went crazy.