24
May

Trecker’s Travels: Spanish football takes spotlight in Lisbon

LISBON —

The winds have been blowing hard into Lisbon this week, whipping off the river Tagus and through the winding alleys of Chiado. It’s added a wrinkle to Saturday’s big match as the memories of the last big blow through here remains fresh.

This February, big hunks of the roof of the Estadio da Luz plummeted to the turf before the Lisbon derby, glass and padding shattering on the surface below. Portugal was lucky: the incident happened in advance of the game, so no one was hurt, but the debris continued to cascade down, causing some angst among UEFA officials. Happily, the damage was repaired, the game went on, and here we are.

No one expects a repeat of that here on Saturday, but it’s a bit apt considering that the winds of change are sweeping through the game.

This is Spain’s time. Regardless of who wins on Saturday night, Spain will hold four of the five major trophies in the world sport. (The final one, the Copa America, they not eligible for). Sevilla upset Benfica ten days ago in the Europa League; Spain are also the defending European and World Cup champions. A Madrid team will hold the European Cup on Saturday. The only blemish on this recent run, if you can call it that, is the national team’s second-place finish at the distinctly second-tier Confederations Cup. This moment, right here, could stand as a capstone for a remarkable era in world football, a period of dominance not seen since West Germany’s reign over world football in 1975 (Only one trophy in 1975, the now-defunct Cup Winner’s Cup, was outside of German hands).

The Spanish fans who packed the Metro this afternoon to overflowing are rightfully giddy, even if their presence has been met with some chagrin. There is no statue of Neptune here, but the fans have been clambering up anything stone in Rossio Square, with scarves and flags since the sun came up, and Real fans have simply taken over two whole plazas in a sort of Occupy Lisbon movement. You cannot walk on the platform at Marques de Pombal without tripping over a red and white flag. And good luck getting a seat at any café in Chiado as they’re all taken by guys in orange, purple or white. Benfica’s treble? Forgot by all but A Bola, the local sports paper that somewhat grudgingly gave space to the final on their cover on Saturday (Yesterday’s cover? A take-out on Jan Oblak, Benfica’s goalkeeper).

It’s a friendly crowd as well, with packs passing each other on the streets or the trams, trading cheers and tuneless songs — but without a shred of menace. Some of that is due to the historic achievement gap between these two, but some of it has to be the fact that this is Spain’s time in the sun.

How long this lasts is open to debate. Atletico have been overachievers in the extreme, low-cost Davids who have ejected a series of clubs backed by sugar daddies and petrodollars. Real Madrid and Barcelona have money to burn, but the latter is on the slide and seems to be entering a rebuilding period. And Spain, while a favorite in Brazil, are not the favorites to win the whole thing.

Fans of Spanish football should enjoy it while it lasts.

14
Mar

Tim Sherwood takes offense to Jorge Jesus during Europa League loss

Thursday wasn’t a great day for Tottenham, having had their Europa League dreams essentially dashed by Benfica in a 3-1 loss.

The already-tense affair grew even more testy after Luisao scored his second goal of the contest. Benfica boss Jorge Jesus celebrated by throwing up three fingers, which appeared to be in the direction of the Tottenham technical area.

Spurs manager Tim Sherwood caught sight of it and took exception. At one point it looks as though Sherwood even squared Jesus up before thinking better of it.  The world’s tiniest fourth official then stood between the managers as they shouted at each other, and cooler heads finally prevailed.

After the match, Jesus pleaded his innocence, saying: “I was saying ’number three, Luisao. Number three.’ That’s his own problem if he felt like that.”

Sherwood was unamused and accused Jesus of lacking class. “I thought his team were very good and showed a lot of class. It’s just a shame their manager didn’t,” Sherwood said.

"Waving goodbye like that? It lacks class. Why would anyone do that? He’s got a good side, of course he has, but not for me thank you. I have no intention of speaking to him.”

We can’t wait to see what the second leg has in store next week at Lisbon.

20
Feb

Jonathan Soriano, Ricardo Quaresma score ridiculous golazos

Austria’s Salzburg delivered athe most stunning Europa League result on Thursday night, defeating Dutch champions Ajax 3-0 in Amsterdam. One of Salzburg’s many heroes on their historic night: Jonathan Soriano.

The 28-year-old Spanish striker scored a spectacular goal from the halfway line which caught Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen off guard. As a result, Soriano’s thunderous boom puts Salzburg in the driver’s seat in their two-legged Round of 32 affair.

Not to be outdone, Porto’s Ricardo Quaresma — once touted as Portugal’s next prodigy — reminded everyone why he earned stints (albeit very short stays) with Inter Milan and Chelsea through his mediocre career.

The former Barcelona flameout whipped a curling strike in off the far post from 20 yards out after beating Eintracht Frankfurt right back Sebastian Jung on the wing.

The goal was not enough, as Eintracht Frankfurt came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Porto. Quaresma’s curler, though, was truly mesmerizing:

16
Dec

Juve faces Trabzonspor, Swansea draw Napoli in Europa League round of 32

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Not to be outdone, UEFA also announced the Europa League’s round of 32 matches on Monday, were Juventus must return to Turkey, the scene of their surprise Champions League exit, to face Trabzonspor.

Here’s the full draw below:

  • Slovan Liberec vs. AZ
  • Anzhi Makhachkala vs. Genk
  • Lazio vs. Ludogorets
  • Dynamo Kiev vs. Valencia
  • FC Porto vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Swansea vs Napoli
  • Chornomorets vs. Lyon
  • Viktoira Plzen vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
  • Maribor vs. Sevilla
  • Real Betis vs. Rubin Kazan
  • Dnipro vs. Tottenham
  • PAOK vs. Benfica
  • Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Basel
  • Ajax vs. RB Salzburg
  • Juventus vs. Trabzonspor
  • Esbjerg vs. Fiorentina

Image provided by Getty.

12
Dec

Fight breaks out in Europa League match

Anyone who said the Europa League is a meaningless competition clearly forgot to tell Dutch side PSV Eindhoven and Ukrainian squad FC Chornomorets Odesa.

With a shot at the round of 32 on the line, things became awful chippy between PSV’s Santiago Arias and Chornomorets’ Sito Riera late in the game.

As seen in the video, Arias gives Riera a less-than-friendly shove out of bounds. This sends Riera over the edge, in more ways than one. The winger charges Arias, shoving him and then popping him with a kick for good measure.

This overreaction starts a minor brouhaha, resulting in a yellow card for PSV’s Adam Maher to go on top of Riera’s red.

That wasn’t the only assault that took place in Thursday’s Europa League action. During an earlier match between St. Gallen and Swansea City. Look at that adorable girl just viciously attack that pretzel. It never stood a chance:

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The scene calls up shades of one George Costanza:

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Unabashed eating. Gotta love it.