Tag Archives: ronaldo

Champions League matchday 6 preview

The final bunch of group fixtures are among us. Some teams have already qualified. Some will be battling for second place. Some could finish third and enter the Europa League. Some, like Celtic, will already be destined to finish last and subsequently eliminated from all European competitions.

Yes, it’s bad news for Neil Lennon’s men. They travel to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona – a club they’ve met in this competition plenty of times over the years. While the Catalans will be looking to guarantee their place at Group H‘s top spot, Celtic have nothing to lose and will be trying to boost their confidence with a difficult win. The only Scottish side to win at the Camp Nou were Dundee United in the ’86/87 UEFA Cup quarter-finals against a Terry Venables-led Barça side.

The much sought after second place is between Ajax and AC Milan. They meet at the San Siro tomorrow night and it’ll be tight. Ajax came close to beating Milan in Amsterdam on matchday 2. Stefano Denswil’s 90th minute lead was met with Mario Balotelli equalising penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time.


FC Porto visit Group G winners Atlético Madrid needing a dramatic change of fortune if they are to avoid an early exit from the competition. The Spaniards have been running away with the group thus far while Zenit St. Petersburg visit Austria Wien seeking a victory to guarantee qualification for the knockout stage for only the second time. In the previous fixture, Luciano Spalletti’s men could only manage a 0-0 draw at home against the Austrians.

Rafa Benitez’s Napoli and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal meet with both qualifying places still to be decided in Group F. Separated by just three points, they are both firmly in the qualifying equation as the group reaches its conclusion, although Borussia Dortmund‘s fixture at Marseille will also be closely followed by supporters in Naples. In the reverse fixtures back in October, Dortmund thrashed the French side by 3-0 while a Mesut Ozil-inspired Arsenal side comfortably beat Napoli by 2-0.

FC Basel and Schalke meet in Gelsenkirchen with Group E‘s second place on the line, while the Swiss side are looking to overtake Chelsea who are currently in first place. Jose “The Special One” Mourinho’s men host Steaua Bucharest and will be seeking a repeat of their 3-0 win in the reverse fixture to ensure they progress as Group E winners. Should Chelsea lose they will finish second while a draw would leave them top so long as FC Basel fail to beat Schalke.

Bayern Munich are looking to seal their first place position in Group D when they host a Man City side who need a massive win in Bavaria to leapfrog the reigning champions though both teams are already through. With this in mind, the third spot is up for grabs and Viktoria Plzeň host Russian opposition for the first time in CSKA Moscow and both will be seeking for a Europa League spot. The Czech side are still to earn a single point and a big win against CSKA would be needed.

Pep Guardiola conducts first training session at Bayern Munich - video

Benfica take on Group C winners Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon knowing their qualification is out of their hands. The Portuguese side are currently in third place, level with Olympiacos on seven points, but behind on goal difference. The Greeks will go through if they defeat bottom side Anderlecht at home. Benfica must better whatever result Olympiacos manage in Athens to qualify. Back in October, PSG bettered Benfica by 3-0 while Olimpiacos achieved the same scoreline against Anderlecht.

A draw is all Juventus need to earn the second place in Group B. They travel to Istanbul to face Roberto Mancini’s Galatasaray and while only a win will allow the home team to overtake their opponents, a draw would be enough for the Italian side. Meanwhile Real Madrid have assured themselves of finishing as group winners and will now be looking to complete their fixtures with a flourish at eliminated FC Copenhagen. The Danish side are in last place but can qualify for the Europa League with victory. Though a draw would also secure third place should Galatasaray lose at home to Juve.

Finally, Man United will be looking to seal first place in Group A when they host a Shakhtar Donetsk side needing a victory to guarantee they will join their opponents in the last sixteen. While Bayer Leverkusen will be looking to spoil it for the Ukrainians if possible, they travel to face Real Sociedad. The Spaniards have only earned one point in the competition and victory for Man United and Leverkusen will ensure their progression at the cost of Shakhtar.


What are your predictions? Tell Rob Smith on Twitter: (@robsmithireland)



Football's greatest rivalries: AC Milan v Inter Milan

The Milan derby, known locally as the derby della Madonnina, is one that every fan of the game shouldn’t miss. Along with the Rome and Genoa derbies, it is one of – if not the – biggest games in Italian football and easily one of the most recognizable fixtures in world football: AC Milan versus Inter Milan.

Unlike many fierce rivalries, it is not uncommon for players to play for both sides, often transferring directly between the two clubs. Massive names such as Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Seedorf, Pirlo, Vieira, Crespo, Balotelli and Davids, to name but a few, have all worn both Milanese colours at one time or another.

In terms of records, the red and black half of the city dominates. Historically, Milan have won more ties in all competitions since the first encounter in 1908. And it’s also Milan that boast a bigger trophy cabinet and a larger fan-base in not only the city, but also throughout Italy.

The games themselves are as intense as any rivalry. With the AC Milan faithful taking up the San Siro’s curva sud, usually with giant banners and flares, and likewise on the curva nord with Inter’s fans doing the same thing. The stadium is a sea of both red and black, as well as blue and black. The games usually are full of drama and tension. Flares, whistles and chants all around the San Siro. It’s usually one of those great, passionate nights of pure football.


Fan of Inter of AC? Or have you been to the derby della Madonnina as a neutral? Share your stories with Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Football's greatest debuts

Demba Ba and Daniel Sturridge enjoyed their Chelsea and Liverpool debuts at the weekend, respectively. Fans of both clubs will hope it’s the start of things to come. But those are just two in a long list of great debuts in the history of the game. Let’s look at some others.

Ronaldo. Real Madrid v Deportivo Alavés, 2002.
Not Cristiano’s first appearance as a Madridista in Tallaght, but the original. Ronaldo arrived at the Bernebéu with huge expectations, with the €45 million price tag seeking justification. He came off the bench with just 27 minutes remaining and scored two goals in a thrilling 5-2 win for Real Madrid. He exited down the tunnel at the final whistle to a standing ovation. Class is permanent.

Jurgen Klinsmann. Sheffield Wednesday v Tottenham, 1994.
The German international arrived at White Hart Lane from Monaco for £2 million in the summer of ’94 and with a reputation of being a constant diver. He marked his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough by scoring a brilliant header followed by a wonderful diving celebration. This immediately won the fans over and Klinsmann went on to win the 1995 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.

Romario. Barcelona v Real Sociedad, 1993.
Brazilian genius Romario marked his Barça debut by netting a hatrick for the Catalans – a feat he achieved four more times throughout the season, earning him the Spanish league’s Pichichi award. He then went onto the little matter of winning the World Cup with Brazil. Had he not had played so remarkably on his debut, would his 1993/94 season been so flawless?

Fabrizio Ravanelli. Middlesbrough v Liverpool, 1996.
Ravanelli arrived in England’s north-east from giants Juventus in the summer of 1996 and he instantly made a huge impact and caused enormous excitement on Teesside by scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool. But unlike Romario, his season went downhill not long after with the club ultimately being relegated and the disillusioned Italian star moaning about everything from the club’s training facilities to the town itself.

Zinedine Zidane. France v Czech Republic, 1994.
Zizou’s debut for Les Bleus was a true Roy Of The Rovers moment. The French were 2-0 down and towards the end of the game, the then-22-year old came off the bench to show the world the start of things to come. Yes, Zidane’s leadership, skills and magic quickly restored France’s confidence in themselves and the Bordeaux man scored the two cracking goals himself to level the game up. Inspiring.

Alan Smith. Leeds United v Liverpool, 1998.
Not many people score on their debuts with the very first touch of the ball. Alan Smith did. He helped Leeds defeat the Reds 3-1 in their own ground  – and right in front of the Kop. Not bad for any 18-year old kid.

Álvaro Recoba. Inter Milan v Brescia, 1997.
The first game of Inter’s 97/98 season had eyes on one man. But it turned out to be not the man they’d hoped. Yes, Recoba made his debut on the same day as Ronaldo made his following his big money move from Barcelona. However, the Uruguyan stole the spotlight after he left the bench, with the Nerazzurri trailing, to score twice in the last ten minutes – the first a thirty-yard piledriver, the second a spectacular free-kick from a ridiculous distance. Watch it here.


Who else has had a cracking debut? Let Rob Smith know via Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Busting football’s myths (part 2)

After last week’s installment, here I tackle a few more of the beautiful game’s biggest myths. Football fans certainly have never been shy of letting the facts in the way of an interesting tale.

1. There are no easy games at international level.  While Giovanni Trapattoni might use this excuse a little more than what many an Ireland fan would care for, I for one ain’t buying it. And neither would striker Archie Thompson after he bagged thirteen goals for Australia in their 31-0 demolishing over American Samoa in 2001.

2. Ronaldo was at his peak in 1997/98. There is no doubting the magic the Brazilian produced during his time at Barcelona and Inter Milan and many, like the late Sir Bobby Robson, have often said that they had never seen anything like him. But his stint at Real Madrid during the famous galactico era was remarkable. Scoring 118 goals in 194 games, a sensational hat-trick against Man United at Old Trafford, two La Liga titles, an incredible amount of personal honours including the Balon d’Or in 2002 (pictured above) and a magnificent number of displays – Il Fenomeno was remarkable throughout his entire career.

3. France’s Ligue 1 is boring.  Is it? Apart from producing home grown stars such as Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Eric Abidal, Gael Clichy, Hugo Lloris, Samir Nasri in the past few years alone, it’s now attracting the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Guillermo Ochoa and Ezequiel Levezzi in recent times too. The league has been criticised for its teams’ failures at European competitions, but it doesn’t stop it being quite unpredictable in terms of results, league standing and, most of all, manager outbursts. Entertainment at it’s best. Vive le France.

4. Players used to behave.  Players from “the old days” behaved themselves on the pitch. Gary Lineker and Dixie Dean never received a yellow or red card in their entire careers. Not like the overpaid prima-donnas of today. Really? I shall turn your attention to Don Revie’s Leeds United team in the early 1970’s for one example – especially Billy Bremner (pictured below). And Diego Maradona, Eric Cantona, Vinnie Jones, Andoni Goikoetxea and Harald Schumacher were all dirty (and a bit mental) and would make Joey Barton look like a choir boy.

5. Ryan Giggs could have played for England.  The Welsh winger once captained England at schoolboy level in the late 80’s. Born and raised in Cardiff, Giggs moved to Manchester at the age of five where he attended English schools – explaining his inclusion in the England youth sides. But surprisingly, due to his paternal grandfather, he could have played for Sierra Leone.


Got any questions or comments? Hit Rob Smith up on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


The joy of six: More You Tube classics

Six more footie-related classics spotted recently via the World wide web. Everything from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s man-crush to the the Russian striker that wants to take every one of his fans on.

1.  George Best in the MLS. This goal wasn’t exactly played in a World Cup final. But it sure was a lot better than the vast majority of Pelé’s 1281 goals. I don’t know when we’ll see Keano do this stateside.
[jwplayer mediaid=”1850″]

2. Ibra loves Ronaldo. The not-so-modest Zlatan Ibrahimovic can’t resist but to be star-struck when he faces his hero Ronaldo during the Milan derby. And I thought Ibra only gets star-struck when he looks in the mirror.
[jwplayer mediaid=”1851″]

3. The boy’s a bit loco. You think Cantona’s kung-fu kick was nuts? Bah…that had nothing compared to when FC Shinnik forward Aleksandr Shirko decided to take on his own fans. As you do.
[jwplayer mediaid=”1852″]

4. Fans never forget. Four years after Luis Figo thought he was in the clear from Barça fans after moving to Real Madrid, renowned Catalan Jimmy Jump (and friend of Football El Mundo) reminded the Portugese winger on live TV that he isn’t welcome back at Camp Nou any time soon.
[jwplayer mediaid=”1862″]

5. White Hart Pain. Giving new meaning to the term “ballboy”.
[jwplayer mediaid=”1858″]

6. The team of God. Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera atmosphere is insane. Even more so when Diego Maradona is around – as Gary Lineker found out during his 2006 BBC documentary on the Argentine genius.
[jwplayer mediaid=”1859″]

Spot anything good on the web recently? Let me know here or hit me up on Twitter (@robsmithireland).

So long, O Fenômeno.

“We can’t afford not to”. These were the words that the late Sir Bobby Robson told the Barcelona board in 1996 when he was told the club couldn’t afford to sign a young Brazilian player from PSV Eindhoven called Ronaldo. He was right. The young player known as “o fenômeno” would become one of the greatest strikers of all time.

Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima started his career with Cruzeiro before moving on to PSV at the suggestion of fellow Brazilian Romario. At the Dutch club he scored a frightening 42 goals in 45 games. That was only to be the start. His one season at Barça he had a similar goal scoring ratio, scoring the UEFA Cup winning goal, becoming the FIFA World Player of the Year and scoring goals that left many with no doubt of his sheer world-class ability.

Inter Milan took note and signed the young Brazilian for £19 million in 1997. He adapted to the Italian game nicely. However, in his 2nd season in a game against Lecce, Ronaldo’s knee gave way and kept him out of the game for months. Like our own Paul McGrath, his knees would constantly give him grief throughout his career. In his much anticipated comeback game, Ronaldo played just a few minutes against Lazio before injuring his knee yet again. Fully fit by the 2002 World Cup, he triumphed for the national side, winning the competition and scoring 7 goals – 2 of which were in the final. Signing for Real Madrid that summer for a record €39 million he became and integral part of their Los Gálacticos team at the time alongside Figo, Zidane, Raul, Roberto Carlos and…McManaman. He scored 83 times in his 127 games for Madrid.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/RySynkNq8w8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

A return to Milan in January 2007 seen him score in a ratio of almost a goal every second game for the red & black half of the city, but his time there was cut short by yet another knee injury a little over a year later. Returning to his native Brazil in 2009, he joined Sao Paolo-based Corinthians. A much loved figure, it was a superb signing. He scored 18 goals in his 31 games for the club and also winning the Copa do Brasil and the Campeonato Paulista. He retired on Valentine’s Day 2011 after Corinthians’ exit from the Copa Libertadores (and subsequent threats from mindless Corinthians fans), it marks the end of the finest ever striker of the modern game. “The head wants to go on, but the body can’t take any more” he told the Brazilian press. Nevermind Torres, Eto’o or Shearer…Ronaldo, the phenomenon, was the greatest ever number 9.

Another day, another classic

  I will be in Liverpool this coming Monday night and I was originally scheduled to go see Cast play on their home turf at the city’s O2 Academy. However, a few weeks ago the news broke that the heated rivalry match between Barcelona v Real Madrid was moved to said Monday night as opposed to it’s usual weekend slot, I made the decision that I will have to catch John Power & co. another time – I’m not missing this.

  Yes sir, this Monday is the 161st La Liga installment between Spain’s two biggest teams. And with Pep Guardiola’s successful record against Madrid and José “Special One™” Mourinho’s successful record against Barça, it makes it even better viewing. Not to mention the small matter of the talent on the pitch such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta, Karim Benzema, Xavi, Sergio Ramos, David Villa, Gonzalo Higuaín to name but a few. It is a hugely anticipated game in world football, possibly more so than the rivalries of Boca Juniors v River Plate, Liverpool v Manchester United and maybe even Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/A_rWi_9zhFA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

  So, put it in your diaries if you haven’t already and tune in come Monday night. The game, known as El Clásico, should have the tongues of football fans everywhere wagging. Of course, not literally. Especially in my case – I’m sure that behaviour in a Liverpudlian pub could see me on the receiving end of a Scouse smack.