Posts Tagged ‘UEFA’

& The Evil Superpowers out to curtail its mission.

That’s one way to stop him – Iniesta takes on Croatia


I am amazed at the current crop of journalists and fans who have now become ‘bored’ & disillusioned with the pure, passing game of the Spanish national side and the most-widely associated protagonists of  ‘tiki-taka’ football,  FC Barcelona. They say these sides are killing games with their passing, putting teams and viewers to sleep with their monotonous, robotic combinations.

But I believe the reason behind this sudden negativity aimed at the beautiful game, is the negative anti-football set-up which is becoming a regular theme in the new battle for silverware. How ever many times the pundits at the European Championships compared a team with a defensive mindset to doing “a Chelsea”, and no matter how annoying it was, part of the annoyance was that they had a point.

I was publicly slated on the evening of the Champions League final for my purist beliefs about how the game should be played, & how the Blues had now ruined what could have been potentially, three great games in the lead up to, & including the Allianz arena showpiece.

Roman Abramovich has bankrolled an impressive cast list at Stamford Bridge during his tenure as owner, and no way is every purchase aimed at a negative or defensive footballing mindset. They have great players, they have firepower, and they should utilise this. You are playing in UEFA’s elite club competition and representing English football in the most prestigious final of the calendar. For that reason alone, you should give your opponents and fans the respect they deserve by at least attempting a foray upfield before the eighty minute mark.

The historical beacon of bigotry, cheating and evasion that was Rangers FC, I think deserve a slither of credit for the shocking lack of attacking intent they portrayed at Ibrox against Messi and his beautiful Barcelona bandwagon in the Champions League in 2007. Under Rijkaard, the monopolisation of possession was starting to take shape prior to the leadership of Pep Guardiola through 2008-2012, who highlighted the style & introduced it to the masses.

Bayern captain Lahm aims to breakdown Chelsea

Walter Smith’s side were not able (that particular year anyway) to financially match the wages or go toe to toe on any level of talent or class with the Catalan giants – therefore their only option was to allow the football to be played out in front of them and for an embarrassment of possession to be forsaken in the hope their goal was not breached.

Lionel Messi was very aggressive in his post-match comments about anti-football, but we have witnessed Celtic ride their luck in the Camp Nou on occasion in a similar vein and not complained about the outcome when it was a positive one for the Hoops. What we require, is a new direction in the ongoing struggle against pure, beautiful, inventive football – and I think actually attempting to play football may, to a certain extent, work.

France were a massive disappointment  during these Championships – they came into the tournament on a great run competitively, with Laurent Blanc installing a belief in the players and the country, that they could replicate the past glories of World Cup ’98 and the 2000 European Championship in Belgium & Holland. Looking through their squad list, there was an abundance of great  flair players who could light up any game – and I’d lost count at the number of punters who had wagered Karim Benzema adding to his Real Madrid club total of thirty-two goals last season, by becoming the tournament’s top scorer.

Watching the quarter-final on Saturday against Spain was not only upsetting for the neutral, like myself, but bewildering for the French team it seemed who looked stuck between a rock and a hard place at times. At points during the match they looked threatening going forward, and when they put Spain under pressure, del Bosque’s side made mistakes.  Then they would remember the game plan outlined at the outset of the match to contain their opponents, and have to fight the natural urge instilled in themselves to exert their fluency and offensive charms.

On the domestic front, Real Madrid managed to stop Barcelona from a fourth consecutive league win last season aided by a glut of goals from a certain Portuguese superstar. When the El Clasico came about though – the tactics shifted slightly, and it seemed their main ploy was to dismantle Barca rather than go toe to toe.  Last season even though the possession statistics were heavily stacked in the Catalan sides favour, Los Blancos attacking prowess was almost identical and their daring was rewarded with a two one victory in the Camp Nou which all but finished off Guardiola’s side in the title race.

So are those now rebelling against their former love, bored with the actual tactic or frustrated with the antidote which has spawn in an aid to curb the success? The problem surfaces when teams are too scared to lose, rather than wanting to win. This in turn has produced an agenda focusing on the incessant and somehow, robotic, pass and move style modelled by Xavi & Iniesta et al, rather than further criticism which should be heaped on the men trying to eradicate the beauty of it.  If more managers and teams broke the shackles of their destructive strategy, and stood toe to toe with the tiki-taka culture – the positivity could return, and the winners would be two-fold. I expect Portugal to rise to the challenge on Wednesday – I hope the magnitude of the evening does not cause them to retreat into their defensive shells.


Celtic take the lead in Italy

On the week that the fans were silenced, the team fired a shot across the bow to Europe and their many opponents. From the first till the mid fortieth minute or thereabouts, Celtic seemed impenetrable – the pressing, marking and organisation was second to none and who knows what the second half would have held had Celtic kept that deserved lead through Gary Hooper’s opener.

The Italian’s, joint top of Serie A, started with a great rendition of the Parkhead sides usual “rabbit caught in the headlights” impression with the visitors making all the early headway. Georgios Samaras again seemed unplayable in an excellent first half display and before the lethal run and cross for Celtic’s 29th minute goal, the Greek forward had slid an inch perfect ball through for the lone Englishman to poke wide & been wrongly adjudged of a foul on Udinese’s last man after another purposeful run. In this vein of form you suspect Sammy to keep his place up until the Glasgow Derby on the 28th but these games do throw up surprise inclusions and omissions. In the second forty-five with Udinese finding their feet, they also found a way of dealing with Celtic’s number nine – mark tight and stop the runs before he gets in gear, for the most part, their tactic worked and Celtic’s main outlet was distinguished.

The saviour of the second half was undoubtedly the much ridiculed young goalkeeper, Fraser Forster. Some of his game is still very raw and requires some work, but his shot-stopping capabilities are at points world-class and other times breathtaking. With the Hoops defending becoming more ragged and tired, the giant Geordie pulled off a string of superb stops – culminating in a Di Natale double stop with the Italian’s second effort – a bullet header reached by the fingertips of an outstretched colossus returning from the far post, to the applause of his team mates and fans alike. Confidence in a goalkeeper can be vital, especially playing for a big side, and Forster has grown in stature these past weeks when he probably imagined the height of his seasons shot stopping forays was the last-minute penalty stop against Hearts last Saturday – his overwhelming and thunderous reaction to that save remains my screen saver and iconic image of the season so far.

Forster saves the day against Hearts

On the day that the big top finally came down on FC Sions’ court circus appeal to be reinstated, Celtic can come away from this test with more than just learning experience. From the disastrous away night in Switzerland, the Bhoys away form has improved to the point where we are now debating how unlucky we were not to win in Italy – a great reflection on how mentally tough this team and manager can be with a little heart, belief and determination.

I was overjoyed when I heard the decision to initially let the Bhoys into the Europa League proper – standing outside Glasgow Central reading Twitter feeds and news stories after work I took it as my duty to let some of my other friends still in work, hear the news – nonchalant and negative came back the responses, to a man the fear of injury, defeat and embarrassment was a burden to great to bear, this season especially. Two defeats to a top Spanish side with some extremely dangerous household names on their books, is no real embarrassment – Celtic never again played the role of the inexperienced and vulnerable pupil. With gusto and confidence they can go into these festive fixtures at worst still four adrift of their title rivals with the thunderous roars of discontent and disbelief engulfing Ibrox.

Oh and before I forget – F**k the SFA, F**k the SNP and UEFA too!

Kill the Bill

Killing the Bill

It came as no surprise to see Celtic in a back page derogatory slant over the past couple of days following the media mauling that the Blue Side have received recently. That might be the old paranoia kicking in again, but every time Celtic get up a head of steam on the field, the circling scribers in the West of Scotland have their poisoned pens at the ready.

Given the timing of this “probe”, you can’t help but think this was lined up to give maximum focus on the clubs supposed shame – and the half-baked, half-arsed police report Strathclyde’s “quality polis (thanks to Robert Florence for that one)” have sent to UEFA will be holier than Paddy McCourts’ Sunday sweater. Yes the Bhoys in green have caused major offence to not only their poor Rennes counterparts, but all & sundry who were watching on television and of course more than likely, wee Pat Nevin whose “pseudo-sectarian-ometer” hit CODE HAMPDEN. Following a great deal of public opposition to Alex Salmond’s “Offensive Behaviour Bill”, this seems a great opportunity for the SNP to manifest their power from within the police force and to show Celtic they will be taken seriously. One of the best points raised throughout the day was of course, if their was offensive & illicit chanting, and the police inside the ground were able to identify it….why no arrests on the night in question??

The European body have opened themselves up as wide as the gap between Craig Whyte’s birds tits in their opposition to “political songs or chants” at any football ground in Europe. A host of clubs have a diverse and cultured stance within their own countries & regions with their political opinions confirming their club identity – a plethora of National anthems including the Soldier Song & Flower of Scotland, also showcase their leanings and sympathies to a great extent against Saxon rule.

A month has now passed since Peter Lawell sat at the AGM, warning and condemning us against the use of certain Republican groups names in song – this coupled with police state 111 and the disgraceful treatment which our supporters have to deal with on every visit to their home, a rebellion has been, and is on the cards. The IRA chants are audible, are they needed? Probably not -Ssome elements of the support are feeling hurt and disenchanted with the clubs hierarchy, and I can’t help but feel if the board showed more solidarity with the fans and also more leniency with their finances – this episode could have been avoided.

But bring on the Hearts, The Hibs and UEFA…..who they trying to kid?