Deja-Vu: Argentina vs. Chile

Messi & Co. leave another final- empty handed. For me the most heartbreaking scene was watching Messi miss the penalty and suffer for the remainder of the shootout. I don’t think anyone else wants it as bad as he does. The constant criticism and negativity for not winning a national title is probably overwhelming. He looked thoughtful, uncertain, and deja-vu kicked in as he prepared for this penalty. He did everything he could during the game but this cannot be a one-man-band. Mascherano did a great job, however the clear goals that Higuain missed are unforgivable. Argentina had great shots in the first half. We all know these opportunities only come once and if missed can be the biggest regret. Rojo being red carded affected Argentina, Di Maria not playing at his best, and now Messi having to create every single chance into a goal had the team in a bind.

With one man down, Chile was able to stay afloat better than expected. During the second half, Chile really came out to pressure and finalize the game. However, they were not lucky at scoring during regular time either. Bravo, Barcelona’s goalkeeper, proved to be the man of the match. He had numerous saves and when it came down to penalties he did his job. Chile is proving to be a powerhouse in CONMEBOL. This is a team that will continue to get far. Vidal did not play well, missing his penalty as well, but Sanchez continued to shine. Honestly, this will go down as the best generation of players for Chile.

Can we even put a name to the man in the middle, also known as ‘referee’ Heber Roberto Lopes. Yes, we knew this was going to be a rough game. Chile typically leads this type of plays. The referee made the game feel choppy, no flow, constantly being stopped. That affected the way the teams continued playing, yellow cards and red being tossed around. This type of referee is not worthy of such a final. Both Chile and Argentina had complained about him because of his track record. When a referee is talked about you know it is not for good calls.

Nerve-wracking. If i had to pick one word to summarize the 120+ minutes of this game, that’s the best way to describe it. Very even, tough, challenging game that’s why it led to the dramatic end. If I had to say if the better team won, I would say the team that made the penalties won.

Update: Messi just announced his retirement from the national team.

 

South American Treat: Chile vs. Colombia

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La Roja or Los Cafeteros, where to even begin. These two South American teams are on fire! They have elite world-class players, not to mention goalkeepers Bravo and Osuna. Chile is coming from pretty much demolishing the Mexican national team (Siete Cero), they are the reigning Copa America champs and are motivated to prove that was not a fixed tournament. Chile just dominates, pressures, and runs the game at a fast pace. It is a dynamic team who has many players that can pull a trick on the opponent. Chile started the Copa America not on a good note losing against Argentina but surely reached the semi-finals. I personally like Alexis Sanchez, he’s a superb leader, player, risk taker and performer.

On the other hand, Colombia started a great tournament but I was not impressed in their quarter-final game. They struggled against Panama, the penalty shootout even made James Rodriguez cry at the end. My favorite player is by far Cuadrado, the Juve player. It seems like he has an invisible magnet between the cleat and the soccer ball. If he has a good game then everything flows. Sorry, but I’m still not in love with James Rodriguez.

If Colombia plays the way they did with Panama and Chile the way they did with Mexico, then Chile will win. No doubt. Tomorrow, I expect this match to be explosive, non-stop running, and of course beautiful goals. Place your bets and hope you win 🙂

 

Messi: His Visit to Earth

13445294_785518201550101_7947840796380572851_nSimple, normal, average people–that’s us. Then there’s Messi. Once in awhile it is said that aliens, out of this world figures, visit us. He is one of those visitors.

Tonight Argentina played the semi-final game against the US. It is not just any game, Messi scored a beautiful free-kick goal—his 55th goal that is. It was a light, feathered touch yet powerful to place it right above the goalkeeper’s reach and lightly scratching the post. Unbelievable! With this goal, Messi has become the all-time top scorer for the national team. He surpassed Batistuta’s  record, that in itself is already an honor. He reads the game, knows when to pass, creates spaces, and all this while 4-5 opponents are trying to block him.

The albiceleste was synchronized and no doubt they controlled the game from the start. I dare to say they even slowed down, at times it seemed Argentina was at a training practice just casually circulating the ball. At full speed I know the score could have been worse (so thank you!). The US team could not even place a shot on goal, no threat, a truly easy game. I did expect a more intense, challenging game, especially after Klinsmann’s words of encouragement. The positive to take from this, we do have to commend the US team. They made it to the semi-finals, unfortunately they had to play against the best team in the world and the alien we call Messi.

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Now or Never: Argentina vs. USA

Argentina v Panama: Group D - Copa America Centenario

A skip and hop away from the final! I never doubted Argentina would make it this far, as a matter of fact, I expect to see them in the final game.

The big surprise—yes, USA having a real possibility of being in the final as well. We all know anything can happen in futbol (handgoals). It is truly amazing, if you recall how the USA was not winning games. How many times did we question Jurgen Klinnsman? Now, I have been a fan of Klinnsman since he was in the German team, however, as a coach I wasn’t seeing him succeed. The US team will have 3 key men out of the game this time around, but Argentina has traveled the most during this tournament and has less time between quarter final and semi-final to rest. That is one big advantage that the US team can capitalize on.

On the other hand, Argentina, Argentina—one word, Messi. I am sure I’m not the only one who gets emotional when Messi scores. To see him triumph makes me happy. His effortless ability to score, dodge opponents, and nutmeg (even goalkeepers) is truly out of this world. When you take a look at the players starting and subbing for Argentina, you can literally have 2 great separate teams. It is an amazing team, whose net worth with all the players (example: Messi, Kun, Mascherano,Di Maria) is about $553,243,152. They are the most expensive team in this Copa America.

While I do love the US team, I have to admit that my heart goes to Argentina. I really want them to take it all! It’s a team that has touched victory at arm’s length, only to be pulled back. Tomorrow is the day to repeat their appearance at another final. Sold-out game, a chance for Messi to break the all time top scorer OR the US to make history in futbol. I expect a great game, hope I don’t bite all my nails.

Siete Zero

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Half-time score Chile 2, Mexico 0
And thus the darkness began to fall for the Mexican team and all their fans at the Levi’s stadium.

Full-time score Chile 7, Mexico 0
Chile swept through a game without an opponent even attempting to stop them. After coming from 22 games without losses, this was probably the most awful way to break that cycle. Who’s at fault? While the coach is the one who should take the blame, strategy, changes, etc. Players are also to blame. These are the games players need to step up, like Chicharito. No passion on this game. I do not think adding Rafa Marquez would have prevented a loss, maybe less damage (5-0). Some are arguing that Chile isn’t the great team. I beg to differ. They know what to do- win. I truly believe Mexico let their guard down, blown up confidence. Fans were pumped up,  even Fox Sports’ Rachel Bonetta thought Mexico would win 3-1. My response, are you serious? After seeing Mexico have a draw 1-1 with Venezuela, Mexico was unlikely to win under the 90 minutes. Osorio didn’t even have their players practice penalties.

Putting their feet on the ground is the first step to a recovery.

Copa America Centenario: Why the US?

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I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews about the US hosting the special edition of Copa America 2016. This unusual fusion of CONBEMOL and CONCACAF has led to a lot of speculation and well let’s be honest, was this necessary?

If we go back a few months, with so much corruption, scandal and fraud, one can really speculate on who was really behind this idea. CONBEMOL has presented itself as a victim to all this and seeks to recover funds that it lost. Regardless, officials continued with the tournament and here we are…..

USA was the top choice, the infrastructure, stadiums, people, and most important- money- were already here. While some might argue that the US is not a country where futbol is number 1, events like this only continue to foster the growth. Since World Cup 1994, we have seen the increase of enthusiasm and fan involvement. Let us not go further than World Cup 2010 final, where an estimated 24.3 million viewers were tuning in. Now we hear the “USA, USA, USA” chants across stadiums.

While this Copa Centenario definitely broke the mold, as a futbol fan I am delighted to have world-class players like Messi and Mascherano here!

Now let’s just enjoy the games and see who takes this trophy home.

 

A Relationship

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I give the sport- futbol, soccer, or football- my full attention and in return I get a range of emotions. These emotions not always being of happiness, at times they fill me with disappointment or anger.

I was only 9-10 years old when I watched my first World Cup on tv. Italy 1990 replaced the time meant for Summer cartoons and activities. I got hooked. I loved the rhythm, intensity and the emotions the game created. I remember cutting newspapers and collecting the player cards. Who can forget Caniggia or Toto Schillaci! I remember feeling terribly sad when Argentina lost. Why though, I’m not Argentinian? This is the beauty of this sport. It’s a feeling that overcomes whatever nationality you are from.

26 years later and I’m still in love with this relationship.