Category Archives: Continental Football
In consecutive seasons of the UEFA Champions League, the favourites will not be in the finals! Like last year, the draws from the semi-finals pointed to the possibility of Real Madrid squaring up to Barcelona to enact the much loved ‘el Classico’ at the topmost level of European club football. However, Chelsea and Bayern Munich ‘connived to deny us that dream.
This season up till about nine days ago looked promising again for the ‘dream’ finals at Wembley. The wheels came unstuck for Barcelona first at the Allianz Arena in Munich when they uncharacteristically shipped four goals against a dominating and well drilled Bavarian side. As if that was not tough enough to take, Bayern completed the rout at Camp Nou by putting the Messi less Catalans to the sword.
The exploits of the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the last Africa Nations Cup are still fresh in our memories. Like many outstanding teams of the past, they must now focus their attention on the new challenge ahead of them. Getting soaked in or carried away by past successes had been the albatross of potential greatness in some of our past teams.
I could recall the euphoria that followed our triumph at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the United States of America after the ‘Dream Team’ won the gold medal of the men’s football event. It was as if Nigeria had won the FIFA World Cup. Being the first African country to achieve that feat didn’t help matters as we were celebrated by all and sundry.
My last post on this blog was about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Since then, they lost the CL match at home to Bayern Munich, struggled to beat Aston Villa and conceded two ‘silly goals’ in three minutes to red hot Tottenham at White Hat Lane to drop off the pace for Champions League qualification. It is not that loss that’s annoying but the manner of it. For 30 minutes or so, Arsenal stood strong against the powerful strike force of Bale, Adebayor and Lennon but without any clear-cut offensive play.
In over half an hour of play, Arsenal could not muster any solid shot at goal against an average Spurs defense. If this does not cut a pathetic picture, I wonder what would. Tottenham were organized in the middle of the pack and very, very quick in counter attack. With Bale and Lennon running riot both centrally and on the wings, Arsenal had no answer to the quick fire counter attacks that resulted in the two goals that downed them within a space of three minutes.
The saying that the only constant thing in life is change is quite apt when viewed from the background of Arsenal particularly with the most recent in their series of debacles. With all likely routes to silverware almost closed (except a miracle happens and Arsenal wins the European Cup), Wenger and his team face the toughest challenge of explaining away what happened on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger is obviously a very determined man. His determination could be seen from the level of his commitment to his ideas and visions. To him, the new standard to measure success at the top level, at least in the Premiership is qualification for the Champions League. And he has always managed to achieve this for the past 14 seasons.
First of all, let me start by thanking the Super Eagles for pleasantly surprising all of us. I congratulate Nigerian football fans that have waited for almost two decades to win the ‘big one’ in Africa again. I would be the first to admit that this victory is ‘sweeter’ than that of 1994. I cherish this victory more due to the fact that most; if not all the pundits in the world put Nigeria in the fifth place among the likely winner of the AFCON 2013.
Those who read me on this blog would note the fact that I had always believed in the team but not to the extent that they would go all the way in South Africa. I developed a keen interest in the team as I watched Stephen Keshi took the bull by the horns in inviting new players to the squad.