FC Barcelona: Culminating With a Dream

May 29, 2011

“This season has seen FC Barcelona reach what must surely be the pinnacle of the quite remarkable cycle of success that this team has enjoyed since the appointment of Pep Guardiola in 2008. Playing a style of football that is as effective as it is beautiful, Barcelona have mastered both patient passing when with the ball and relentlessly energetic pressing without, their beguiling proficiency seeing them repeatedly outclass the rest of Europe.” The Equaliser – Video

Style and Stylelessness
“Some last-minute thoughts . . . Last year I wrote something about styles and stylelessness in soccer, and I’m thinking about that again as the Champions League final approaches. Everyone knows, because fifty articles a day say so, that Barcelona has a very distinctive style of play. You can name it and describe it, and you can see clearly when other sides try to imitate it. Xavi may be the perfect embodiment of the style, but it’s bigger than he is, and everyone knows it. Whenever Victor Valdés starts a Barça possession not with an aimless punt but with a sharp clean pass to Piqué or Busquets, the crowd at Camp Nou cheers. ‘Even our keeper plays the Barça way!'” Run of Play

Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United: Barcelona are European Champions
“Goals from each of Barcelona’s front three gave Pep Guardiola’s side victory at Wembley. Sir Alex Ferguson named his recent ‘big game’ XI – which meant Javier Hernandez upfront with Wayne Rooney behind, and Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick in the centre of midfield. The biggest surprise was Dimitar Berbatov not even being on the bench. Guardiola was able to call on Eric Abidal at left-back, but not Carles Puyol at centre-back, so Javier Mascherano started in defence after all. The overall pattern was not completely different from the 2009 final. United enjoyed a good opening few minutes, but were then the poorer side for the rest of the contest.” Zonal Marking

Barcelona outclasses Man United with a performance for the ages
“Surely now the doubters have been won over: this Barcelona is one of the greatest teams there has ever been. In Pep Guardiola’s three seasons in charge Barca has twice won the Champions League, and it was denied a hat trick that would have placed it statistically alongside the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides of the seventies only by the combined might of Jose Mourinho and an Icelandic volcano.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Lionel Messi the little master offers timely reminder of the beautiful game as Barcelona thrill
“This was the sort of spellbinding performance from Barcelona, and particularly their wonderful Argentine magician, that makes even cynics fall back in love with football. Pass and move, move and score. Bewitching. For a sport dogged by negative headlines, the club season climaxed with a celebration of the sport’s oft-hidden virtues. The spotlight turns to Fifa today, and the judgment of the Ethics Committee on recent shenanigans, but here was a reminder of what the game should be about. Not greed. Just glory. Just a love of the ball’s company, a passion for guiding it past opponents.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Brilliant Barcelona are a high point in football’s evolution
“In the buildup to this final, the BBC debated who was the greatest of all club football sides and settled on the Real Madrid team who won the first five European Cups from 1956 to 1960. There was unanimity in favour of Puskas, Di Stéfano and Gento: white-jerseyed enemies to the people of Catalonia. Study the tapes of those Real Madrid XIs and you see skill, exuberance, thrust and machismo; a regal confidence across the team. You also register a wholly different version of football in which possession is easily surrendered and defending often laissez-faire. The greatest of all Real’s early triumphs – the 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960 – was a goal avalanche impossible to imagine in a Champions League final today.” Guardian – Paul Hayward

Prized Possession for Barcelona: Champions League Title
“LONDON — With the fans at one end of Wembley Stadium singing and dancing, and those at the other sulking and leaving, the public-address announcer made the most obvious of proclamations: Barcelona was the winner of the Champions League.” NYT

Barca vs. Man United player grades
“Reviewing the individual performances in the 2011 Champions League final (players graded on a scale of 1-10)…” SI

Barcelona 3 – 1 Manchester United
“For the second time in three years, brilliant Barcelona denied Manchester United Champions League glory with a sensational performance at Wembley. Although United could take some small consolation from the knowledge they were more effective than that 2009 letdown in Rome and even managed to level Pedro’s first-half strike through Wayne Rooney, once again the better team won. On the ground where the Catalans lifted their first European Cup, Lionel Messi also laid his personal ghost to rest, scoring his first goal for Barcelona on English soil, belting home what proved to be the winner nine minutes into the second half.” ESPN

FC Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United – Extended Fox Sports Video Highlights
Extended Fox Sports video

FC Barcelona Trophy Celebrations After Winning 2011 UEFA Champions League
Video highlights of the trophy celebration by FC Barcelona on May 28, 2011


May 27, 2011

“Put all your partisanship aside and enjoy the ball in flight. It’s been switched crossed field from the inside-left position by the skillful, balding, English bulldog in ballet slippers to the man on the right touch in all black boots and pomade-infused black hair. Taken out of the air with the inside of the foot and stopped dead by the simplest of grace, the game has changed from a waltz on spiked Lucozade to an aguardiente-inspired pasillo remix. That sequence of events gives me joy. There is technique and there is technique. And, such deft touch is evidence of the latter. What happens next, the soccer equivalent of a crescendo, brings me happiness.” Run of Play

Sergio Busquets: Barcelona’s best supporting actor sets the stage

May 27, 2011

“Most people don’t like Sergio Busquets. But then his club and country coaches, Pep Guardiola and Vicente del Bosque, are not most people. Nor are his Barcelona team-mates. In the bowels of the Camp Nou, the question is obvious. ‘You must be happy to be free to play in this Champions League final after everything that has happened?’ Busquets is asked. ‘Sí, muy contento,’ says the Spaniard sharply. And then there is silence and a steely stare. Next.” Guardian

La semaine en France: Week 37

May 27, 2011

“You wait 56 years for a major trophy, and then two come along at once. Eight days after ending a 56-year wait to win the Coupe de France by beating Paris Saint-Germain at Stade de France, Lille ended a 57-year wait for the Ligue 1 championship following a 2-2 draw against the same opponents down the road at Parc des Princes.” Football Further

ADO 5 – 1 Groningen: First leg trashing fires ADO into Europe

May 27, 2011

“In a first leg of what many expected to be a tight affair, ADO trashed Groningen and went on to win 5-1, thereby virtually securing their win in this season’s Europa League qualification playoffs. Groningen conceded the midfield to ADO by playing a formation bordering on 4-2-4 against ADO’s compact 4-3-3. In turn, ADO played to their strength very well and consequently circulated the ball to the feet of wingers Kubik and Verhoek. In the end, a weak performance by Groningen goal keeper Luciano did the rest.” 11 tegen 11

Days Like These – The Big Match

May 27, 2011

“‘The Big Match’, directed by Joel Simon, depicts one man’s recollection of a special day in his childhood, and it’s something we can all relate to. The film uses animated archive video footage and photographs to bring this personal story to life. Music was written and performed by the Brian Irvine Ensemble.” In Bed With Maradona

The End of Barcelona

May 26, 2011

The Great Fish Market – Jan Brueghel the Elder
“I have a new piece in Slate about the Champions League final and whether we’re about to see the end of Barcelona’s magical run of the last few seasons. Of course, no sooner had I ventured this possibility in a draft than I went down with a sudden, bad case of food poisoning; most of this was written while I was clinging to the edge of the bed, sustained by nothing but Gatorade and rice. So take that into account, if you believe the universe avenges its chosen children.” Run of Play

Sic Transit Gloria Messi
“For the past three years, soccer has been dominated, utterly and ruthlessly, by a reign of Spanish prettiness. Spain’s national team won Euro 2008 with a rapturous mix of intricate passing and outrageous goal-scoring, then repeated the feat, albeit less dazzlingly, at the 2010 World Cup. Meanwhile, F.C. Barcelona took many of the same Spanish players—plus Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar who’s lived in Spain since boyhood—on a fey romp through worldwide club soccer.” Slate