Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Barca round-up: internationals, Villarreal, and other news

I've got exams coming up yet again, so expect less posting for the next 3 weeks or so. Pity, it's such an exciting time.

Internationals round-up

Att Luis Aragones: if you're going to fly Puyol out to Denmark and then say he's not fit when he patently is, then just leave him in Spain next time and save him the travelling. No need to take him along if he's not fit as you claim, after all.

Good to see the Barca duo of Iniesta and Xavi both playing well and contributing in Spain's 1-3 victory over the Danes.

Actually, let me just detour for a moment:

I don't like Luis Aragones. I think his decisions are often boneheaded and that he needs to never open his mouth in public. However, I personally feel that the way the media have talk about the absences from the squad have been very disrespectful to the excellent players who were selected and deserved their shot. Case in point, Raul Tamudo, who had a great season last time around and has started brightly after coming back from injury this time. Just because he doesn't play for one of the big two doesn't mean he's not good enough for Spain. Espanyol have been playing well anyway, and credit to Aragones for reflecting that in calling up 3 of their players. While I'm at it, credit also for finally playing Cesc, Xavi and Iniesta together.

(Or you could go and read Sid Lowe's new column, which makes the same points I did, except in a better, actually amusing way.)

Thierry Henry got his 41st goal for France in their 0-6 win over the Faeroe Islands, thus equalling the record set by the great Michel Platini and becoming his country's leading goalscorer. Abidal and Thuram also played the entire game, Abidal - rather unusually - as a centerback.

Congratulations to Deco, who got his 50th cap for Portugal and had a hand in the first goal to set them on their way to a vital victory over, er, Azerbaijan. Seriously, though, Portugal needed those points.

Eidur Gudjohnsen scored a brace but couldn't prevent Iceland from going down to a 2-4 defeat against Latvia. Good to see him fit and firing again. In fact, congratulations are due because his goals have made him Iceland's leading scorer with 19.

Bojan scored his first goal for the U21s as they beat Poland 2-0 in a European Championship qualifier.

Leo Messi and Gabi Milito helped Argentina to a 2-0 home victory against Chile in their opening World Cup qualifier. (For more on the Argentines, my ramblings on them are now located at the Argentina World Cup Blog.)

Brazil - featuring our very own Ronaldinho for the first time in a while - were by all reports unimpressive as they drew 0-0 against Columbia away. Admittedly, not an easy fixture, so it's not a bad result at all, but the performance certainly raised a few eyebrows.

Mexico also drew their friendly against Nigeria 2-2, with Giovani Dos Santos winning the penalty which Cacho converted into their second.

Villarreal matters

Our first game back is a difficult one, against high-flying Villarreal, who only slipped up last week because they were visiting Osasuna, where Barca couldn't score. We have had problems with this game before, especially in El Madrigal, with last season's defeat there a particularly traumatic result given the situation at the time. The fixture list after that is a pretty gruelling one, especially since the game after this one is in Glasgow against Rangers, but we'll get to that later.

Robert Pires, for one, cannot wait for face his old friend Thierry Henry for the first time in a decade. A wonderful player who is in great form, and a bit of a Madridista himself, so he'll be extra motivated.

Speaking of Thierry, there's a new great, lengthy interview with him - especially recommended for Arsenal fans, actually, even if you were stung by his departure. As for this Barca supporter, I found it quite endearing, even if I'm never going to agree with him about his version of events in that Paris final.

Other club news

Fortunately for Frank Rijkaard, Bojan only had one game to play, and he's back in Barcelona, giving the coach a whopping 4 players to work with. A bit threadbare, I think you'll agree. Those four: Valdes, Ezquerro, Sylvinho, and the returning Bojan. Oh yeah, there's also A team part-timer Marc Crosas, who was actually injured for a couple of days, which temporarily left Barca in the ridiculous position of having no fit holding midfielders at all, despite having four of them on the books. In any case, he's now fit, but we currently have no rightbacks, since Oleguer's not been feeling well lately either. He's still working on a specific recovery program, alongside backup keeper Jorquera, who I assume picked up a knock in training. No wonder Rijkaard let B team coach Guardiola take combined training for a couple of days.

I'm getting a little antsy about Giovani's contract situation. The rules state that players can't sign a professional contract until they're 18 years old, and until then they can be bought for very little (I believe the extra sum is 20 million euros in this case), hence the quick action being taken to offer Giovani a contract as soon as he turned 18 and joined the first team. The boy himself says that negotiations are on-going, which is good to hear, but my worries won't be appeased until he puts pen to paper. (And no, AS, this does not mean he's going to Real Madrid. The boy himself says it would be wrong for him as a Barca-developed player, and I believe him.)

Speaking of young talent, October 16 was the day Leo Messi made his offical debut for Barcelona 3 years ago, in the last 10 minutes of the Barcelona derby at Espanyol, and since then, Barca fans have been lucky enough to witness the development of a very special player. In that time, he has played 78 games for Barca (including quite a few substitute appearances), scoring 34 goals and giving the fans plenty to shout about. Still only 20 years of age, so hopefully we will get to enjoy his skills for years to come. Congratulations to him.

There were 7 Barca players on the FIFA World Player of the Year list. This award, I should point out, is largely being given for performance during last season, which makes it hard to crow about the number of nominees when I can remember how some of them played back then.

Apparently Samuel Eto'o has been coming down to the changing room before games to see the players, according to Victor Valdes. By the way, it's nice to see him actually attend games, which is something that I feel injured players who are in the city and mobile enough to get around should try to do. But that's just a personal preference.


Lastly, Gonzalo, I think it's gotten to the point where Laporta has usurped Calderon's lovingly granted title of President Tourettes. Lord.

6 comments:

Gonzalo said...

You may be right at that. Looks like someone's finally got through that less is more to Calderón. Still neither is as obviously deranged as Gaspart was, as deluded as Del Nido or as thoroughly repugnant as Gil or Lopera. Nuff said.

Gonzalo said...

Good luck in your exams, by the way!

Linda said...

Good point. Jesus Gil, I think 'wins' this particular competition. Er, won?

And thanks!

Elisa said...

Hi Linda,

I really like your blog. Very insightful and honest on the blaugrana. We'd love to see if you are interested in being a guest, part of a roundtable of bloggers or interviewee as part our La Liga Talk podcast or interviews. You can check us out (blogs, pods etc) at www.laligatalk.com. Or email me at forzafutbol@yahoo.com.

Best*

Hudsonland said...

1) Aragonés is a despicable individual and his tenure as national team coach reflects badly on La Selección and the Spanish nation.

2) Brazil's performance against Colombia would have had to have been a lot better to qualify as merely 'unimpressive'.

3) Aupa Atleti!

Linda said...

hudsonland: I agree, Aragones should have been fired a long time ago. Thankfully he will be leaving after Euro 08.

Having seen the 'highlights' of Brazil-Columbia, I have to agree with you about their performance there.