the Champions League
I watched most of the Greece Russia without much attachment. I had no dog in this fight, not even a flea. I’m an Arsenal fan and couldn’t even sustain enough animosity toward Arshavin. I didn’t really blame him. He hadn’t shown any inclination to cover an opposing player or tackle anyone since 2008, maybe 2007, so it was my fault that I kept expecting him to. He had cost us many a game but it was Wenger’s fault that he kept faith with the Russian. One of these days, an epiphany and Arshavin would track back. Nope.
Much has been made of Dutchman Arjen Robben’s almost preternatural ability to choke on soccer’s biggest stages. There was his series of oh-so-close shots in Bayern Munich’s losing effort against Inter Milan in the last match of Europe’s most prestigious club competition, the Champions League, in 2010; his indefensible blunders in the final game of the 2010 World Cup; his uninspired and easily-corralled penalty kick in the overtime period of this year’s Champions League Final.
Frank Foer: Luke, I'm putting together a Euros blog. Are you in? Luke Dempsey: Couldn’t care less, Frank. FF: The phrase is “could care less,” Mr. Dempsey. LD: Not in England it’s not. FF: You’re not IN England. You haven’t lived there for 17 years. I know for a fact that you missed the whole Jubilee thing . . .
It ought to be noted that Marcell Lippi took the blame for Italy's humiliating demise—something that a clown like Domenech would never even think of. His penitence was somewhat forehanded as he managed to smack the players who lacked courage and played with terror in their hearts, while accepting the blame for picking such players. There were quite a few weak-kneed players on Italy's team yesterday, but none more so than De Rossi whose legs seemed to have been replaced with wet spaghetti.
Of all the advantages that England seemed to enjoy at the outset of their lifeless 0-0 draw with Algeria, perhaps none looked so dramatic on television as their vast handsomeness advantage. On the sideline there was David Beckham, of course, the only man alive who can make a mohawk look upstanding, and the coach Fabio Capello, who looked terrific and commanding--gorgeous light grey suit, charcoal shirt, black tie, and spectacles so impeccably designed they seem likely to inspire a line of kitchenware.
Let me bring to your attention a couple of things about the Mexican team before Friday’s opening match. I am fairly certain you have heard about Hugo Sánchez, the famous striker who owned Spanish football during the eighties playing for Real Madrid. Yes, Hugo was great: trained by gymnasts, his acrobatics remained unmatched in the box. His most famous goal, against Logroñes in 1988, still is one of the most beautiful in the long history of the sport (I challenge anyone who worships Zidane’s goal in the Champions League 2002 final to watch the above clip).
My best friend, a notorious Americanophile, has been trying for years to get me to abandon the lush, green meadows of soccer for the thin, shiny parquet of the NBA. A dreary return match between Barcelona and Inter in the Champions League semifinals provided him with the perfect opportunity to try and convert me again. “How can you waste so many hours watching a game where the highlight is a closeup of a frustrated, unshaven Spanish player spitting on the ground?” he asked. “Even FIFA knows the game is mega boring. Why else would they try to jazz it up by changing the rules every year?
It has become a sign of spring: as swallows crowd the sky over Madrid, Real is eliminated at the knock-out stage of the European Champions League. Yet again, the richest club in the world has spent obscene amounts of money with the sole intention of winning the most important club competition in the world, but on March 10, they were knocked out from the last 16 for the sixth year in a row (in 2003, they were eliminated from the last eight). This time, they were brought low by Olympic Lyon, who beat them at home and tied them in Madrid.