Tag Archives: football

Recommended Book: Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the WorldBarca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World by Graham Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you are looking for an objective view, you won’t find it here. If you are interested in how FC Barcelona works and the main issues in the past 10 years (rise and fall of Rijkaard, the emergence and utter dominance of Messi, the Guardiola era) this is the book for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it did sometimes feel too fanboyish.

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Recommended book: A life Too short, the tragedy of Robert Enke

Robert Enke was a German professional football goalkeeper who commited suicide at the top of his career, on the eve to represent his country at the 2010 World Cup. This book details his life, his career and his struggle with the pressures of professionalism and depression which led to his tragic end.

It is often unrecognized that a person’s mental health is as important as his physical one. Sadly it was only after this event that the German Football Federation started offering counselling to players.

Dos libros de futbol (Dios es Redondo & La Tenés Adentro)

Acabo de terminar dos libros de futbol que me encantaron por razones totalmente diferentes.

Dios es Redondo de Juan Villoro es una colección exquisita de ensayos de futbol escritos por un autor bastante reconocido con una pasión por el deporte y un humor exquisitos.  Un libro recomendadísimo para todos los que adoran el balompié con el corazón pero lo examinan con el cerebro.  Algunas citas como muestra:

El juego sucede dos veces, en la cancha y en la mente del público.

Elegir un equipo es una forma de elegir cómo transcurren los domingos.

Es posible que el futbol represente la última frontera legítima de la intransigencia emocional; rebasarla significa traicionar la infancia, negar al niño que entendió que los héroes se visten de blanco o de azulgrana.

En sus peores momentos, el fan del futbol es un idiota con la boca abierta ante un sándwich y la cabeza llena de datos inservibles.

El sentido de la tragedia inventa insólitos recursos; sin embargo, a veces el futbol se parece a la canción ranchera y lo bueno consiste, precisamente, en salir ultrajado: “¡Qué manera de perder!”.

Un mexicano adicto al futbol es, entre otras cosas, un masoquista que colecciona agravios, jueves de dolor para los que no hay domingos de resurrección”.

La pelota reclama afecto. Si es pateada con pasión, el tiro acabará en las redes. Si es pateada con angustia o despecho, acabará junto a un vendedor de cervezas.

La tenés adentro de Juan Carlos Pasman contiene la crónica de la “era Maradona” al frente de la selección argentina desde el punto de vista de uno de sus mayores críticos en el periodismo deportivo rioplatense.  El libro está muy mal editado y se nota que fue escrito a las carreras, pero pasando esos detalles por alto es interesantísimo.  Para los que quieran saber más de cómo se manejan los intereses alrededor de la selección albiceleste es un libro imperdible.  Quisiera saber cuándo habría un libro así sobre la selección mexicana en sus etapas La Volpe o Aguirre, pero para como se maneja el oligopolio televisivo probablemente nunca sucederá.

Balance of the summer for Mexican football

The summer is over, and so are the different national team tournaments.  The overall balance I would say is overwhelmingly positive, but there are definitely some things that should be improved, specially with regards to planning.

In June, the A squad beat every team in its path towards the continental trophy quite decisively and took the Gold Cup, qualifying to the Confederations Cup in 2013.

Also in June, the national team played the Women’s World Cup, qualifying for the first time in more than ten years and winning it’s first couple of points, but bowed out after the group stage.

In July, a horribly patched up C or D team (8 U20 players, 11 U22 players and 5 senior players not part of the original Gold Cup squad) played the Copa América as guests and finished dead last. Ouch.

Also in July, the U17 Tri hosted and won the WC for their category.  Beating Germany in the semis with an overhead kick by an injured player and playing the final in front of 100,000 delirious fans at Azteca Stadium was surely unforgettable for everyone.

Finally, the U20s reached a honourable 3rd place in the WC for their age group in Colombia, knocking out the hosts and beating les Bleus for bronze.

The cherry in the cake for me was Chivas beating Barcelona in a friendly (and currently leading the standings in the Mexican league after 6 games). 🙂

As said, overall the balance is positive with 2 golds and 1 bronze out of 5 tournaments.  However in the case of the Copa América a lot could have been done to either negotiate participation with the A team or not attending at all (even after removing players for a scandal just before the tournament).  If the players and the teams are improving so should the federation.

They shall call him… Little Pea

He arrived unheralded and unknown in one of the best football teams in Europe from the biggest team in Mexico, where he rose from obscurity to become one of the biggest stars in the league and the national team having scored 21 goals in 28 matches.

After a summer where he scored against fancied teams such as France, Argentina or Spain, everybody (including himself) were very sceptical about his impact with his new club.  They shouldn’t have bothered.  His hunger and instinct in front of goal have been impressive, and he’s got a catalogue of impressive, resourceful and plain weird goals to his name: with his face, his hip, the back of his head, his heels, between two defenders, running into space, Panenka-style penalties, etc.

The bit that really impresses me about him is his attitude towards life.  You see him playing every game with his heart out both for club and country, he’s always courteous with the fans and seems to have a pretty solid family life.  Youth needs more examples like that.

 

Football video games and simulation

Fifa 10

I have been playing FIFA 11 over Xbox live with some friends (gamertag: chivacongelado). I was struck by how accurate the simulation is nowadays.  Trying to dribble or sprint your way around a defense definitely doesn’t work anymore, and you need to be well aware of the tactical advantages and disadvantages of playing a 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1, to give an example. At least with the people I’ve been playing online, possession football seems to be your best bet. This style is both close to my heart and the way Spain won the World Cup in the summer, which makes me wonder whether it influenced the development of the game.

I never thought I needed to read Zonal Marking to play a video game, but at least I really enjoy the experience.

Recap: Mexico in the World Cup

The last month has seen a dearth of posts in this blog for two very simple reasons: work has been absolutely hectic and the World Cup has overtaken the little available spare time I have.

The Mexican team was eliminated in the second round of the World Cup, but I wanted to recap on its campaign in the tournament (for the full tactical analysis go here).  Its preparations were the best in recent memory, doing not only the usual tour of the US against mid- to low-tier teams but also a tour of Europe, where the team lost against England and the Netherlands but beat Gambia and Italy.

As the Tricolor played the opening match against South Africa expectations were very high, but the team looked imprecise (if you could blame the ball the time was now) and lacking killer instinct in the last third of the pitch.  South Africa scored a beautiful goal on the counter and Mexico had to search further, with captain Márquez saving our blushes (and our chances to qualify for the next round).

The second game, against France, was the one everybody expected the team to lose.  The French team, however, hadn’t read the script and arrived tired, divided and overconfident.  Mexico, having performed some changes in defense compared to the first game, looked the better team throughout, but it was the introduction of  youngsters “Chicharito” Hernández and Pablo “Dinamita” Barrera that really made a difference.  The first open the scoreboard and the second provoked a penalty that sealed the game as 2-0 in our favour.  The victory was celebrated by the 110 million Mexicans in Mexico and the 30 million abroad, it was the main news item in domestic media and life was good.

The third game of the group stage was weird: Mexico and Uruguay could go through to the next stage with a draw, while a victory by either team would mean trouble.  Both came out swinging anyway but it was Uruguay who scored the only game in the match.  Mexico would meet Argentina in the second round… just like in 2006.

Expectations being enormous, it was the Mexicans who played the better football in the first 30 minutes, until a blatant offside goal gave Argentina the lead and totally crushed Tri concentration.  That was obvious with the second albiceleste goal, rising from a childish error in defense.  The 3rd goal for the South Americans, however, was a thing of beauty and there’s nothing the opposing fan can say about it.  Mexico picked up the pieces and it was again “Chicharito”, coming as a sub, who led the Mexican charge and scored what in Spanish is called the “honourable” goal, but that was it.

Aguirre, the coach who saved the Mexican qualification campaign, will not continue at the helm of the national team, but many of the men he picked are called to become the backbone of the group that will seek to play in the next World Cup in Brazil: Ochoa, Moreno, Aguilar, Guardado, Dos Santos, Vela, Hernández, Barrera are all under 24 years old, and many are either playing in Europe or have the possibility to move here within the next 4 years.  Other players who figured in the team but didn’t make the trip to South Africa are also young, so right now would be the time to find a good coach, create a proper plan and stick with it.

Regardless of what happens, this is the moment I’ll cherish until I see the guys in green, white and red sing the anthem at the World Cup again: