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The boys of London 2012

26 Jul

Photo: RFEF

Although the opening ceremonies aren’t until tomorrow, men’s Olympic football kicked off today, with 16 teams in the tournament, including Spain. (The Spanish women’s team didn’t make it to the Olympics, but I am proud to be supporting the Canadian women’s team.) If you have never paid much attention to Olympic football before, you may be surprised to learn that players must be 23 or younger, with three exceptions per team, which allows for a more even playing field – and lots of fresh faces.

In a surprise upset, Spain lost their first match 0-1 to Japan, so let’s wish the boys lots of luck against Honduras and Morocco.

Hot Euro player of the day: Iker Casillas (Spain)

2 Jul

Photo: Iker Casillas’s own Facebook page. This is why we love him.

Other people who have been following the Euro Cup seem to think that Spain’s team is all about Andrés Iniesta. Iniesta is an incredible player, and totally deserved to be named Best Player of the Tournament. However, I felt that those less familiar with Spain weren’t giving enough credit to the rest of the team. Little Jordi Alba scored his first ever goal for Spain in yesterday’s final, but more importantly, has come into his own as a great defender. Fernando Torres has gone from a dismal season at Chelsea to winning the Golden Boot (which stunned even me) thanks to his goal in the final. In fact, ten Spanish players were included in UEFA’s 23-man Team of the Tournament.

So when the crowd at the Spanish Club were I was watching the final chanted, “Iker! Iker! Iker!” every time Casillas made a save, I felt right in my element. It was good to be around people who realize just how special our captain is. And since his three international tournaments as captain have also been the three consecutive ones that Spain has won (the first team in history to do so), it would be very hard to imagine victory without him. And he totally deserves a whole gallery.

Transfer news: Jordi Alba goes home

29 Jun

Photo via El País

After several weeks of negotiation, Barcelona has signed Jordi Alba on a five-year contract. Alba played for the Barcelona youth team, but was dropped at the age of 16 because he was too short. For Barcelona. At 1.70 m (5’7″), Alba is the same height as current Barça stars Pedro, Alexis, Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi. (To be fair, defenders are usually expected to be taller.) Anyway, Alba’s performances with Valencia and the national team (he has been excellent in the Euro Cup) impressed Barcelona enough that they’re willing to spend €14 million to bring him back.

Goodbye Miki Roqué

24 Jun

Photo: ABC de Sevilla

Tragic news from Barcelona, where Real Betis defender Miki Roqué has died today of cancer at only 23. He was diagnosed with pelvic cancer in March 2011, just before Betis became second division champions and were promoted to La Liga. My thoughts go out to his friends and family during this very difficult time.

Welcome back!

20 Aug

Welcome back to La Liga! The 2011-2012 season was supposed to kick off today, but the players are on strike. Fingers crossed everything will be back on track by next weekend.

Since I lied when I said I’d keep you all updated over the summer, let’s see what we missed.

International

UEFA U-21 Champions! Photo: Getty via Daylife.

A great many congratulations to Spain, who are 2011 European Champions three times over! Spain won the UEFA Under-21, Under-19, and Women’s Under-17 Championships.

Our beloved Rojita defeated Switzerland 2-1 in the U-21 final, with Barcelona’s Thiago Alcántara scoring the game-winning goal. Adrián Lopez earned the Golden Boot with five goals.

In the exciting U-19 final, our boys beat out Czech Republic in extra time. Valencia B’s Paco Alcacer was the hero of the match, scoring two goals in added time. Real Madrid Castilla’s adorable Álvaro Morata won the golden boot, contributing six goals in the tournament. It appears Spain’s national team will remain successful (and good-looking) for years to come.

Finally, the young ladies of the U-17 defeated France in the final, with Alba Pomares scoring the only goal of the match. Let’s hope this means better things to come for the Spain NWT, who failed to qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

Copa América

This picture is pretty adorable, but would it would be even better if Diego Forlán had taken off his shirt. Photo: Getty via Daylife

The Copa América doesn’t have much to do with La Liga or Spain, but I wanted to give a shout out to La Liga’s Diego Forlán, Diego Godín, Martín Cáceres, and Sebastián Eguren, who were on Uruguay’s winning squad. Also, congratulations to Paraguay’s Justo Villar, who was named best goalkeeper of the tournament. Villar plays for Real Valladolid in Liga Adelante.

International Friendlies

 

Reunited and it feels so good.... Photo via Iker Casillas' Facebook

Real Madrid were champions of the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge, squeaking by Manchester United in goal differentials. The friendly tournament was held in North America and featured MLS and Mexican Primera División teams as well as clubs from England, Spain and Italy. Barcelona didn’t do so well without Messi (who was recovering from Copa América), but they’ll be back to their fearsome selves in no time. Players from both Real Madrid Castilla and Barcelona B got plenty of chances to shine. Little Joselu scored a goal for Madrid, and Thiago impressed Pep Guardiola enough with his performance in the U-21 squad and in the preseason that he will be joining Barcelona’s first team this season.

While Barcelona continued touring North America, Real Madrid traveled to China. They beat two Chinese teams by six goals each, but their most interesting friendly was played against 109 children in Guangzhou. Adorable. Valencia stayed in Europe, where they had a successful preseason against the likes of AS Roma and Sporting de Lisboa.

Supercopa

Garbage. Photo: Getty via Daylife

Well, the first leg went well. With their fresh new look and strong midfield, Real Madrid dominated possession, but Barcelona struck with deadly efficiency. Mesut Özil and Xabi Alonso scored for Madrid, Messi and Villa for Barcelona.

The second leg at Camp Nou was more of the same. Goals for Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema, Iniesta and Messi. When Messi scored a second goal in the 88th minute, it looked like Barcelona would win the 2011 Supercopa with little incident. But of course we cannot have a clásico with little incident. With one minute of stoppage time left, Marcelo decided Cesc Fàbregas, who had been playing for Barça for all of ten minutes, needed to be hurt. Marcelo was given the red card he deserved and all hell broke loose. Özil and Villa were sent off for fighting with each other (although I strongly suspect Özil’s red should have gone to Higuaín), and Mourinho will likely be suspended for a few weeks. It should be the referees who are on strike, because they’re not paid enough for this. Personally, I would have sent the lot of them off and have Athletic Bilbao and Málaga (who are slated to play Real Madrid and Barcelona next, respectively) win their first fixtures of the season by default. I pray that I don’t have to see more than the minimum two Clásicos this season, and I’m afraid to think of what even those will bring. Anyway, rant over. Barcelona won fair and square, Cesc is no worse for wear, and there won’t be another Clásico until December.

And with that, I’ve had enough for the day. Transfer highlights and football-related gossip to follow.

 

Off the market: Jesús Navas and Diego López

13 Jun

Photo: Sergio Ramos' Twitter (@SergioRamos)

Congratulations to Jesús Navas and longtime girlfriend Alejandra Moral, who were married Friday in Los Palacios (Seville). Good friend and former Sevilla teammate Sergio Ramos was in attendance and tweeting pics. I extend my condolences to all you Navas fans out there. Would it cheer you up if I reminded you that Ramos is once again single?

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Fresh meat: Hamit Altintop

19 May

Photo via Skyrock

Looks like José Mourinho is bringing us another bit of Turkish delight for next season. Bayern Munich striker Hamit Altintop has signed a four-year contract for Real Madrid. Like fellow n00b Nuri Sahin, Altintop was born in Germany but represents Turkey. AND he has an identical twin brother, Halil, who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt and Turkey. Welcome Hamit!