Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

On December 23rd, after a little over six months at the helm, Rafa Benitez agreed to part ways with Inter Milan.  I’m not a fan of Inter but they did the right thing by getting rid of Benitez.  Inter is currently in seventh place in the standing, thirteen points behind leaders Milan, unacceptable.  That’s not reason enough to get rid of him.  He deserved to go because upon winning the FIFA Club World Cup he decided to give the owner an ultimatum.  He told Massimo Moratti that either the club back him with new signings or they should consider whether or not they wanted to keep him in charge.  Inter chose the latter and they decided that his services were no longer needed.

That didn't last long

Where does Benitez get off making these demands?  Did he not realize that this team has won the last four scudetti (the fifth one was handed to them)?  Did Benitez also forget that Inter just came off a season where they also won the Champions League and Coppa Italia?  Does this sound like a team that needs new signings?  Jose Mourinho was able to get this team to them top so why couldn’t Benitez make it work?  Hell, if Roberto Mancini can win a Scudetto, anyone can.  This team has five titles in the span of one year (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup) but the players weren’t good enough for Rafa Benitez.

Proof anyone can win a Scudetto

Inter has 34 player on the roster.  How do you not win with the likes of Julio Cesar, Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Maicon, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Wesley Sneijder, Sulley Muntari, Esteban Cambiasso, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev?  Throw in youngsters Jonathan Biabiany (France), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), and Davide Santon (Italy) and thats a pretty good team.  That’s only fifteen of the thirty-four players on this team.  Too bad Benitez had no use for Mario Balotelli (Manchester City) and Victor Obinna (West Ham), they could have really helped out this team.

Balotelli would've looked good in an Inter uniform....oh, wait

Who did he think he was going to sign?  I know the names of Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were being thrown around in the summer but why should Inter have to pay that much money to improve a team that has won so much in recent years?  Why couldn’t Rafa Benitez make do with what he had?

Sure, Rafa Benitez won a Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, an FA Cup in 2006, and two La Liga titles but what has he done lately?  That sounds harsh but in today’s game you have to win now.  Unless you’re Sir Alex  Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho, what you’ve done in the past doesn’t mean a thing now.  Benitez left Liverpool in ruins and wanted to change Inter in his own image.  Rafa Benitez might have been able to talk Gillett and Hicks into buying every player he wanted but Massimo Moratti doesn’t work that way.  You don’t tell Massimo Moratti what to do.  He does what he wants to do.  Benitez didn’t understand that and it cost him his job.

Massimo Moratti

Do you know who I am?

Where does Rafa Benitez go from here?  His name has enough cache that he’ll be in the running for some major jobs but teams will also be leery of giving him too much authority after seeing what he did with Liverpool and his actions at Inter.  There’s talk of Liverpool being interested in Benitez but that probably just talk.  No way the new owners of Liverpool hand the reins back to the guy who ruined it in the first place.  Roy Hodgson won’t make it through the season as the Liverpool coach but I seriously doubt we’ll ever see Benitez there again.  He’d be better off going back to La Liga and trying to find a team to wrestle the league away from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

I thank Inter for giving him a shot because AC Milan was able to take advantage of his poor showing and find its way atop Serie A.  Thanks for the memories Rafa, we hardly knew ya.

This was a long time ago Rafa

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One Reason to Watch

So before I get started, I have to give a little background. I had been really enjoying the country pride that Korea has and some exciting upsets, so my opinion of this whole soccer thing were beginning to change.  Before this year I wasn’t a soccer fan, but the World Cup obviously has another aspect that makes you watch -similar to speed skating in the Winter Olympics – you wouldn’t watch it any other time, but now when it’s the best in the world you go with it. There have still been so major flaws….

5) Anti-Climatic endings: fans do not seem to amp it up as it gets closer to half or the end of the game. Often the athletes seem inclined to accept the results at the three-minute mark, sometimes when it even means the difference between winning and tie.

4)… Speaking of ties. Why are they so satisfied to let games end this way? At least put on 15 to 20 minutes and see who can endure from there,  sudden death. Each team would probably have a possession or more, so sudden death should work. It works in hockey.

3) Unlike hockey though, there is a huge amount of faking or injuries, falls, etc. Especially, but not limited to, the European teams. This is not the players fault, FIFA has allowed this practice to become an effective method of gaining an advantage, its time for FIFA to pull in the reigns and force players to have some dignity on the field.

2) The lack of the worlds best athletes. If you tell me Kaka is…. you are highly confused. Just imagine how much damage someone like LeBron could do on the soccer field.

1) Explanation of calls on the field or off. I shouldn’t have to write this, really I shouldn’t. In what is the biggest global athletic event, in a globally televised game an official can make a call on the field without having to say who the foul is against is absurd. The official does not even have to write up a report on the game listing his calls. Other sports organization have offered explanations and sometimes even apologies for missed calls. Several at the highest levels use instant replay. I am not demanding instant replay, I am just pointing out the lack of accountability.  I can not speak of an agenda of an official, but it is possible, and without FIFA requiring explanations and justifications of calls, an official could fix the biggest tournament in the world. I want to see a Deadspin article with Donaghy breaking down the calls of the World Cup, instead of him telling me about the missed traveling violations in the final. Weird Tim, the NBA has not consistently called that in years, but I digress.

Anyways, none of these things are ground breaking.   They really would not change the game of soccer as seen on the field, the only one not easily solved is the athlete thing but I guess I can survive that, but it would make it a better game.  What do you think?

Day fourteen is over and the reigning champions are going home and rightfully so.  More on that in a bit.  New Zealand proved they weren’t one of the worst teams in the World Cup and actually had a shot at advancing.  Japan proved me wrong and they’re moving on to round two while the Dutch continued to shine in a win over Cameroon.

I thought Italy would get lucky, like the always do, and go far in this tournament but I was so wrong.  It’s easy to get lucky when you have a talented team but this team was awful.  This has to be one of the worst Italian teams, on paper and on the pitch, in a long long time.  The first mistake Marcello Lippi made was bringing Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus, soon to be Al-Ahli Dubai) to South Africa.  Yes, he was the darling of 2006 but memories don’t win you games.  His career has been in decline since the final whistle blew in Germany four years ago.  It’s not a good sign when your oldest player is also your starting center back.  The rest of the defense wasn’t much better.  Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan) is a name everyone probably knows but his play wasn’t the greatest in Serie A this season.  No matter, Lippi coached him at Juventus so that has to count for something.  Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa) and Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), do those names scare you?  Weak!  Maybe I’m being biased but one of the AC Milan youngsters of Ignazio Abate or Luca Antonini would’ve looked good on this Italian team.  Hell, bring them both.  They’re defense was outstanding this season and they can make runs up the sides of the field.  That’s just me.

It's not 2006 anymore. What have you done for me lately?

The absence of Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) in the first two games was huge but they should have had someone to make up the difference.  Who?  You can’t tell me that Marco Boririello (AC Milan) wouldn’t have looked good up front for this team.  Instead, let’s bring Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) and watch him come up small in big games.

How much of a dent does this put in the legacy of Marcello Lippi?  He was riding high after taking the World Cup to Italy in 2006 but he has to be the goat for bringing this team to South Africa.  An Italian team can’t win one game in a group with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia?  Merda!

On to the games:

Slovakia – Italy (3-2)

Goals – Vittek (SVK) 25’ & 73’, Di Natale (ITA) 81’, Kopunek (SVK) 89’, Quagliarella (ITA) 90’+2

Italy knew a win would get them through and even a tie might be enough.  They did neither.  Both teams were even in time of possession but Slovakia looked a step faster.  Robert Vittek’s (Ankaragucu) first goal came on a defensive mistake and his second goal came when all the Italian defenders were standing around watching while Vittek was going to goal.  Italy brought it back to 2-1 at 81’ but Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava) scored before the end of regulation to condemn the Italians to taking the walk of shame back home where the media and fans will have lots of venom for them.

It was nice seeing Gannaro Gattuso (AC Milan) starting for this team.  It was odd because he wasn’t good enough to even play in the first two games and now he’s a starter.  My joy didn’t last long because he was substituted at 46’.  He was a monster and had so much heart/anger.  The rest of the team should have so much heart.  I’m surprised Zdenko Strba (Xanthi) continued after the clash he had with Gattuso.  It was an accident but Gattuso slid in and his cleats hit Strba’s knee and sliced it open.  It was pretty gruesome.  Strba was about five seconds from being replaced because of the cut but he jumped up as his replacement was walking to be introduced into the game.  Gattuso said he would retire from the national team after this World Cup and that’s too bad, for me.

You will be missed. Maybe not but Zdenko Strba but definitely by me.

Paraguay – New Zealand (0-0)

Paraguay only needed a tie to advance and that’s just what they did.  Not to say they didn’t try but they just couldn’t put the ball in the net.  New Zealands goalkeeper Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix) had a fantastic game.  Paraguay had the edge in time of possession, shots and shots on goal.  Actually, New Zealand didn’t really have an actual shot that Justo Villar (Valladolid) had to worry about saving.

I have to give props to New Zealand because they left this tournament with three points and not losing a game.  I truly believed they would get killed by Paraguay and Italy.  I thought Slovakia would beat them too.  Again, I was wrong.  New Zealand showed that they deserved to be here.

Denmark – Japan (1-3)

Goals – Honda (JPN) 17’, Endo (JPN) 30’, Tomasson (DEN) 81’, Okazaki (JPN) 87’

The winner goes through in this one and a tie favored Japan.  Who wanted it more?  Japan played better even though Denmark controlled the ball longer.  The goals from Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) and Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka) both came from set pieces outside of the Denmark area.  Honda and Endo put the ball directly in the net.  I think it’s the first time all tournament that there’s been a goal directly from a free kick.  Most times, players have been smashing the ball into the wall or launching it over the goal.  I’m surprised it took this long for a free kick to make a direct goal.  I think the ball still might have something to do with it.

So much for this being a down tournament for Japan.  They have played very well and their defense is pretty good.  Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Nagoya Grampus Eight) is everywhere in defense and probably deserves a look from a mid-tier club in Europe.  Denmark was my dark horse in the tournament but they couldn’t get it done against the Netherlands and Japan.  The absence of Simon Kjaer (Palermo) to suspension was huge because he was a big part of the defense.

Cameroon – Netherlands (1-2)

Goals – Van Persie (NED) 36’, Eto’o (CMR) 65’ penalty, Huntelaar (NED) 83’

Netherlands were playing for fun and Cameroon were playing for pride.  Fun wins.  Cameroon have to be disappointed to be leaving the World Cup without even garnering a single point.  Much to no one’s surprise, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen stepped down after the match.  Most likely he’ll take the Australia job and run them into the ground.

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) finally scored after threatening in the first two games.  Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) made an appearance and also scored but that won’t be enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup.  Oh yeah, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) entered the game at 73’ and looked good.  The injury looks to have cleared up and that doesn’t bode well for Slovakia in the next round.  The only question is, who gets dropped to make room for Robben?  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid)?

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (7), Mexico (4),  South Africa (4), France (1) – Uruguay and Mexico advance

Group B:

Argentina (9), South Korea (4), Greece (3), Nigeria (1) – Argentina and South Korea advance

Group C:

USA (5), England (5),  Slovenia (4), Algeria (1) – USA and England advance

Group D:

Germany (6), Ghana (4), Australia (4), Serbia (3) – Germany and Ghana advance

Group E:

Netherlands (9), Japan (6), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands and Japan advance

Group F:

Paraguay (5), Slovakia (4), New Zealand (3), Italy (2) – Paraguay and Slovakia advance

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (4), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, North Korea eliminated

Group H

Chile (6), Spain (3), Switzerland (3),  Honduras (0)

Of the three games on tap, only Brazil – Ivory Coast seemed interesting.  It wasn’t but there was one other game that was.  Italy should’ve killed New Zealand.  They didn’t.  Now, Group F is still wide open and the reigning champs are in danger of missing out on the second round.  This World Cup is starting to get interesting.  Well…more interesting.

On to the games:

Slovakia – Paraguay (0-2)

Goals – Vera (PAR) 27′, Riveros (PAR) 86′

Paraguay OWNED this game but, surprisingly, Slovakia held a slight edge in time of possession.  From what I could see, Slovakia didn’t really have a purpose or a plan when they had the ball.  Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) had the ball a lot but he didn’t really do anything with it.  Slovakia had a ton of missed passes and off the mark shots.  It’s like Slovakia has never been pressed before because that’s what Paraguay did in all game.  Smart.

Sure, you had the ball but what did you do with it?

I’d be surprised if Paraguay didn’t handle New Zealand in their final game.  They moved the ball well and controlled the midfield against Slovakia.  Everyone on Group F is still alive but Paraguay surely goes through.

Italy – New Zealand (1-1)

Goals – Smeltz (NZL) 7′, Iaquinta (ITA) 29′ penalty

Italy continues to look plain in the World Cup.  God forbid they should ever score two against lowly New Zealand.  Let’s be honest, New Zealand doesn’t have many quality players.  Yet, they hung with the reigning champs.  Italy has never been a fan of making things easy.

The longer New Zealand could stay in this game the higher their confidence would be.  Shockingly, to the Italians and the world, they scored first and just like that, Italy were in trouble.  Italy regrouped and struck back on a Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus) converted penalty at 29′ and they took off from there.  Italy was peppering the New Zealand defense but the Kiwi’s were able to hold them off.  Good result from New Zealand, not so much for Italy.

New Zealand have two points after two games, two more than I thought they would have.  So much for them being one of the worst teams in the tournament.

Did anyone notice who the 4th official was for this game.  It was Koman Coulibaly from Mali.  Who’s that?  I’m sure American “fans” know.

Brazil – Ivory Coast (3-1)

Goals – Luis Fabiano (BRA) 25′ and 50′, Elano (BRA) 62′, Drogba (CIV) 79′

Red Card- Kaka (BRA) 88′

This was supposed to be the game of the day but it was a letdown.  Brazil seemed as thought they were toying with the Ivory Coast.  Another Sven Goren Erikkson team underperforms.  Why do teams still hire this guy?

Brazil looks to have bounced back from their lackluster performance against North Korea.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was on and played way better than in the first game.  Sure he got a red card and will miss the next game but who cares?  Brazil are already in round two.  Kaka gets to rest and be ready for the next round.

About that red card:  The Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita (Galatasaray) should either be punished or given an award for that performance.  Kaka shouldered him up but Keita acted as if he were punched in the face.  Terrible!

And the Oscar goes to...Kader Keita

Brazil looked like the powerhouse they are and with Germany looking plain against Serbia, Brazil look to be the class of the tournament.  They seem to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (4),  France (1), South Africa (1)

Group B:

Argentina (6), South Korea (3), Greece (3), Nigeria (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (4), USA (2), England (2), Algeria (1)

Group D:

Ghana (4), Germany (3), Serbia (3), Australia (1)

Group E:

Netherlands (6), Japan (3), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands advance, Cameroon eliminated

Group F:

Paraguay (4), Italy (2), New Zealand (2), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (1), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, Portugal/North Korea still to play

Group H

Chile (3), Switzerland (3), Spain (0), Honduras (0)

Monday’s games were all entertaining but the trend of sloppy play continues.  I know not everyone is Argentina but why are so many passes and crosses being missed?  Is it the ball or are the players just a bit off.  Maybe a little bit of both.  The ball seems to just fly off the players’ feet.  I have a strange feeling that we won’t see a brilliant spot kick that just curls into the goal anytime soon.  The ball is not coming down like it usually does.

The Netherlands – Denmark game was the marquee matchup on the day but most fans had to see how the defending champs, Italy, would fare against Paraguay.  Netherlands – Denmark didn’t disappoint and Italy needs a little work.  In other news, Japan didn’t do much but managed to beat Cameroon.

On to the games:

Netherlands – Denmark (2-0)

Goals – Agger (DEN) 46’ og, Kuyt (NED) 85’

I was surprised the Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk decided to go 4-5-1 and leave Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan) on the bench.  But hey, he’s the coach and he can do whatever he wants.  The first 20’ of this game went back and forth and it was a bit sloppy.  Denmark was the (slightly) better team in the first half even though the Netherlands had most of the possession in the half.  Danes Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal) at 27’, Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax) at 36’ and Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg) at 36’ all had quality shots on goal but were unable to get it in the net.

To start the second half, Dane Simon Poulsen (AZ Alkmaar) wanted to head away a cross out of the box but instead headed into the back of teammate Daniel Agger (Liverpool) which went into the Denmark goal.  1-0, just like that.  It looked bad.  Looks like Poulsen wanted to flick it away but it caught him by surprise and it hit off the side of his head.  Actually, this is probably the first and last time I really noticed Agger.  Not good.

Oops!!!

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) had a few chances for the Netherlands but he doesn’t like to shoot until the moment is just right.  Too bad the defenders moved when it was.  Van Persie is lucky he didn’t get his second yellow at 60’ when he kept playing and shot after the referee blew the whistle for offsides.  He blamed the vuvuzela’s but I think he’s just a punk.

A limping Bendtner was replaced at 61’ by Mikkel Beckmann (Randers).  Bendtner is coming off an injury and he didn’t look too good coming off.  Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV) came on for  Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid) at 67’ and immediately caused trouble for the Danish defense.  Elia is fast and has tons of moves.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) closed the scoring at 85’ when Elias’ shot bounced off the post and right on to his foot.  Tap in.  Game over.

The Netherlands were miles better in the second half and Denmark never recovered from the own goal.  I expected Denmark to lose this game but they should do better against Japan and Cameroon.  Both these teams still go through.  Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) was on the bench nursing an injury to his leg.  I’m not sure when/if he’ll return.

Japan – Cameroon (1-0)

Goal – Honda (JPN) 39′

Japan is not the team it used to be and looking at their players it looked as if they’d be lucky to get a point.  Thanks Cameroon, you just made Japan’s World Cup.  I wonder if Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen (retread) has ever seen Samuel Eto’o (Inter) play before this game.  If he had, he would never have put him on the right wing let alone keep him there for the whole game.  Explain to me how one of the best goal scorers in the world isn’t playing in the center of the field and why is he crossing into the box instead of being on the end of those crosses?

This guy isn't a winger, he scores goals...lots of them

Cameroon controlled the play, had more time of possession, more corner kicks, and more than double the shots, and lost.  Why was Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F Marinos) on the bench when clearly he’s one of the best midfielders on this team?  Heck, let’s throw Asia in there as well.  After Japan scored in the first half they looked like they didn’t need or didn’t want to score again.  Whenever Cameroon had the ball, there were ten Japanese players behind it.

At 82′ Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg) had a nice shot that Cameroon keeper Hamidou Souleymanou (Kayserispor) had to work to save.  The rebound went to Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse) but his shot hit the post.  There’s been a lot of post shots this World Cup already.  At 85′ Stephane Mbia (Marseille) hit a rocket that beat the keeper but clanged off the post.  Unlucky.

Japan will be happy with the result because this might be the only one they get.  Cameroon will be wondering how they let this slip away.  They needed this because the Dutch and the Danes will be much harder to handle.

Italy – Paraguay (1-1)

Goals – Alcazar (PAR) 39′, De Rossi (ITA) 63′

Italy are the reigning World Cup champs but they started the game like any other Italian teams, slowly.  Paraguay literally had one shot on goal and made the most of it.  Paraguay was better in the first half but Italy remembered how to play in the second and had the South Americans on their heels for the last forty-five minutes.  The Italian lineup was not impressive and neither was their bench.  Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) was on the bench but injured so he wasn’t gonna see any action anyway.  This has to be one of the weakest Italian teams in a long time.

The game was very chippy with a lot of whistled.  Surprisingly, there weren’t many yellows.  The first 20’s were very sloppy but the pitch was wet so I’ll cut both teams a little slack.  Unsurprisingly, Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) was not a factor in this game.  He can’t play on the big stage, ask AC Milan fans.  I would go with Fabio Qauagliarella (Napoli) or Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) in the next game but that’s just me.

Don't expect too much from Gilardino in big games

Giorgio Chiellini’s (Juventus) stupid foul on Nelson Valdez (Borussia Dortmund) at 37′ led to Paraguay’s goal.  Antolin Alcaraz (Club Brugge) headed in the free kick and it was 1-0.  To make matters worse, Italy’s keeper, Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) injured his back in the first half and had to be replaced by Federico Marchetti (Cagliari) to start the second half.  Buffon says he’ll be back for the next game but we’ll see.

Italy dominated the second half and Paraguay was lucky they only scored one goal.  Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus) replaced Claudio Marchiso (Juventus) and immediately brought a spark to this team.  I expect Camoranesi to start the next game.  At 63′ Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma) knocked in a  goal from a corner and the Italians were saved from embarrassment.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

South Africa (1), Mexico (1), Uruguay (1), France (1)

Group B:

South Korea (3), Argentina (3), Nigeria (0), Greece (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (3), USA (1), England (1), Algeria (0)

Group D:

Germany (3), Ghana (3), Serbia (0), Australia (0)

Group E:

Netherlands (3), Japan (3), Cameroon (0), Denmark (0)

Group F:

Paraguay (1), Italy (1), New Zealand and Slovakia have not played

Yesterday, one of The Blasian’s (remember him?) favorite teams, Inter Milan took on Chelsea at Giuseppe Meazza in the Champions League Round of 16 clash.  Inter won 2-1 and look good, not great, going into the return match in three weeks time.  Before I go into the actual game let me tell you about these two teams.

Last week my favorite team, AC Milan took on a team I really, really like, Manchester United.  Inter and Chelsea are the opposite of that.  They both make my Top 5 most hated soccer/football/futbol/calcio teams.  Both teams are probably tied for third on that list.  Let’s take a quick look at what that list look likes:

Top 5 Most Hated Soccer Teams
1.  Juventus (Italy)
2.  Manchester City (England)
T3. Inter Milan (Italy)
T3. Chelsea (England)
5.  Roma (Italy)

Even though Inter and Chelsea are on this list I have to admit that I do like some of the players on these teams whereas I hate everything about Juventus and Man City.  Juventus and Man City have no redeeming qualities and there is not one player, coach or member of management I like on either of those teams.

Sure Inter has won a few scudettos lately they but they haven’t won the Champion’s League/European Cup in my lifetime and this makes me very happy.  The Blaisian (who dat?) can say whatever he wants about Inter but you can have all the league championships you want but you’re nothing until you win in Europe.  Plus, don’t think winning one puts you in the same sentence as AC Milan.  Same goes for you Chelsea.  Try to win in Europe before you think you’re on par with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

I’m sad that AC Milan or Manchester United will be out after the Round of 16 but at the same time seeing Inter or Chelsea out makes it a little better.  The one thing that scares me is that Inter or Chelsea will go through to the final and beat AC Milan or Manchester United. That would be my ultimate nightmare.  Although, if it were reversed and AC Milan or Manchester United beat one of those two teams it would make winning the title even sweeter.  AC Milan has one quite a few Champions League/European Cup titles but the one I savor and remember the most is when we beat Juventus in the 2003 final in Manchester.  It was like winning two titles at once.  The Blasian (where are you?) would be unbearable if Inter won the Champions League.

The game:

To be honest, this game wasn’t that exciting.  I thought Chelsea worked hard and deserved better.  I wonder what the referee was thinking on the play where Kalou got taken down right in front of the goal?  Eto’o was disappointing.  Ivanovic (Chelsea) and Sneijder (Inter) had great games for their respective teams.  Maybe the game played too much like a chess match because both coaches knew the other team as well as anyone.  Chelsea better hope that Cech is able to play in the return because Hilario looks terrible.  The guy looked frightened when he came in to the game and can’t execute a goal kick to save his life.

Inter will go into Stamford Bridge with a slight advantage.  That away goal by Chelsea is big.  Chelsea can go through with a 1-0 win but if Inter scores then Chelsea will need to win by two.  Even though I hate both teams, I would love to see Inter crash out first.  Not just because The Blasian (I think he still writes for this blog) likes them but because they are and always will be second class citizens in Milan.

I don’t know if I should say this but I don’t like Mario Balotelli.  Please Blasian (come back soon), don’t rip me because he’s your guy.  It has nothing to do about his skin color.  I have no idea why the Italian fans have a problem with his ethnicity because on the field he’s all Italian.  What does that mean?  He’s such a whiner and goes down in a heap with minimal contact.  How has he not played for Italy yet?  He’d fit right in.

Italy, don't boo Super Mario because he's black, boo him because he dives and whines

Now that all of the games in the first leg are complete, lets take a quick look at the other games and what might happen in the return.

AC Milan – Manchester United (2-3), Manchester go home looking real good.  Three away goals are huge and I have trouble believing that Milan can score two, let alone win by two.  Then again, if Ferguson decides to play Neville on the right then Milan could probably do whatever they want (see Everton).

Bayern Munich – Fiorentina (2-1), Bayern got the benefit of a non-call from the referee and the linesman.  Klose was offsides not once, but twice on the play.  Sure, Fiorentina got an away goal but I think Bayern will find a way to get this done.  Don’t forget that Bayern went to Torino and beat Juventus 4-1 to knock them out of the tournament.

Lyon – Real Madrid (1-0), Lyon shocked Madrid but an ever healthier Ronaldo should make the difference at the Bernabeu.  I can’t muster up any excitement for Lyon because Jean-Alain Boumsong is one of their defenders.  Rangers, Newcastle and Juventus fans know what I’m talking about.

CSKA Moscow – Sevilla (1-1), a good showing by Sevilla in frigid Moscow puts them in the driver’s seat going back to Sanchez Pizjuan.

Stuttgart – Barcelona (1-1), the defending champs were frustrated by the German side and the return should be interesting.  Don’t put Barcelona in the next round quite yet but playing at the Camp Nou should help.

Porto – Arsenal (2-1), Arsenal looked terrible in this one.  Who knew that Almunia, as bad as he can be, is the best Arsenal can do in goal?  That being said, Arsenal rights the ship and advances at the Emirates.

Olympiakos – Bordeaux (0-1), the French leaders look good going back home.  Bordeaux have lost only once at home this season in Ligue 1