Sovereign city state nations with populations less than 1,000 find themselves irresistibly drawn to soccer. Or perhaps that pertains only to one-man rulerships like Vatican City, right smack in Rome, that can't help but intersect with soccer and watch it blow up in their faces. When soccer runs amok, it self-inflates beyond all suggested parameters and eventually explodes, pressure pumped beyond the limits.
The two epic Champions League semifinal ties did produce two memorable and perhaps historic 1st leg matches this week, but not in the way that any of us expected. One wordsmith needed only five of them to sum it up: "Two days of destruction. Unbelievable."
Tuesday was Bayern Munich-Barcelona, Wednesday was Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid.
It is upon us, a clash of the titans: Bayern Munich hosting Barcelona in the 1st leg of their Champions League semifinal tie. The German superclub and Bundesliga champions against the Catalan superclub and La Liga champions-elect. Both of them 4-time European champions (Bayern in 1974,1975,1976, & 2001, Barcelona in1992, 2006, 2009, & 2011).
[Editors' notes: Bullet-pointed observations from the mind of Coach Larry on last week's World Cup qualifiers from around the globe:]
CONCACAF aka THE HEX:US def got lucky to escape Azteca with a scoreless draw. The second penalty claim was pretty strong, though it looked like he may have screwed it wide just before the contact from Edu.
Many thanks to THC, who travelled to Denver for last night's USA vs Costa Rica match, then managed to make it home to file this report despite the blizzard, a mobile phone with just enough juice left to grab the pic you see here, and a serious case of frozen balls. It's dedication like his that makes this country so great.
The week's Champions League oxygen was mostly sucked up by Tuesday's memorable and controversial Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid match, but with three other second legs also in the books, we've now got four of eight quarterfinal spots set: Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, and Juventus. Next week's remaining2nd legs matches will determine the other four: Barcelona-Milan & Schalke-Galatasaray (Tues); Bayern-Arsenal & Málaga-Porto (Wed).
In a recent podcast for Grantland, Roger Bennett and Roger Davies reflected on MLS's current fortunes. After nearly two decades, they argued, the league had made it through the leanest years intact, financially healthy, and ready to expand its market share. Indeed, soccer remains one of the nation's most popular youth sports and perhaps more importantly, among 17 – 24 year olds, as was widely reported last year, soccer ranks second just behind American football in popularity.
The North London Derby is upon us. In the Cult Football camp, this match – more than any other – sees us set against each other. The fires were stoked with this initial lob: Bale isn't even better than Walcott.
If I remember correctly, I posted just a few days before that link was available that Walcott has better stats than Bale this season.
Expect more deaths on March 9 in Egypt—both from judicial death sentences and the inevitable post-verdict riot—in the continuing fallout from the demise of the Mubarak regime in January 2011 and the soccer stadium massacre an anniversary-perfect year later.
After a February 2012 match in Port Said, Egypt, between Cairo's most successful club Al-Ahly and its portside rival, Al-Masry, fans set upon one another with rocks, fireworks, broken bottles, knives and reportedly even swords.
Today is the match of matches at least of the season thus far: Real Madrid vs Manchester United, atEl Bernabéu.
It's the 1st leg of their Champions League Round of 16 draw, certainly a huge and highly anticipated match (though sophisticated football hipsters know that Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund also playing today, at the Donbass Arena is the truly interesting matchup of the the Round of 16).
The highly anticipated (at least in this quadrasphere (?)) CONCACAF Hex started yesterday, with three very compelling matches: the USMNT went down to Honduras and lost 2-1, Costa Rica battled back for a 2-2 draw in Panama City, and perhaps most surprisingly Jamaica left the usually forboding Estadio Azteca with a point after battling Mexico to a scoreless draw.
As we posted to the tumblr yesterday morning, there were at least 10 international matches of interest yesterday, ranging from the Africa Cup of Nations semifinals in the morning, to a bunch of international friendlies in mid-afternoon, and capped off by the 1st three Hex matches.
Here's a roundup of various match notes and observations from the CultFootball crew:
The twoAfrica Cup of Nations semifinals: I put on the first semifinal, Mali vs Nigeria, midway thru the 1st half, and quickly saw Nigeria go up 3-0 within the span of 20 minutes.
While some dictators qualify as relatively batshit crazy, North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il took run-of-the-mill guano and weaponized it with a deep, visceral nuclear fear factor. Against the backdrop of a starving nation, he enriched uranium, trained missiles on South Korea and Japan and generally gave everyone the heebie jeebies with the supremely iffy accuracy of the North Korean military's test fires.