Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thoughts on the Champions League Final

I guess you could say that I'm not over Barca losing to Inter.

When I put this jersey on, I was reminded that UEFA gives special patches to clubs that win the Champions League/European Cup four times. If not for Yaya Toure's "handball," the Blaugrana would be going for number four this afternoon. As is, I'm already thinking about how their short passing game will play on the dreadful Wembley pitch at this time next year.

This is my first Champions League Final with English announcers. I love Martin Tyler, but part of me misses Derek Rae, who did an outstanding job. Andy Gray over Tommy Smyth? Not a contest. Gray's voice reminds me of afternoons playing FIFA '97 with my friend JT in law school. We never stopped being amused by Gray saying "that was a great save for so many reasons."

30 minutes in and these two teams are cancelling one another out. With two superb tactical managers who have had weeks to prepare, I shouldn't be shocked. Inter are forcing Robben wide as opposed to cutting in onto his left foot and he hasn't put in a really good cross yet. He has been Bayern's sole source of offense.

And there's the opener for Inter, exposing Bayern's suspect centerbacks. You don't win your first two knock-out ties 4-4 with good centerbacks. Milito won a long ball from the back to Sneijder with Demichelis on his back, then broke for goal, leaving the Argentine in his dust. Sneijder then had a simple pass back to Milito. Basic route one. Drogba and Lampard pulled the same goal off dozens of times for Mourinho (or so it seemed). If Demichelis is starting for Argentina this summer, then the Albiceleste are doomed.

Milito then set up Sneijder for a great chance that he shot at the Butt. Inter are ripping Bayern in the middle. Van Buyten and Demichelis are no match for Sneijder and Milito. Mourinho has figured out how to isolate his best players on Bayern's worst. My Teutonophile friend Victor insists that Bayern was better when Demichelis was hurt, Badstuber was at centerback, and Contento was at leftback. [Update: I subsequently listened to the World Football Daily interview with Kris Voakes and he made the same point, so the Italians had apparently also figured out Bayern's best back four. Too bad Van Gaal couldn't do the same.]

I don't know how I feel about a threesome of Curt Menefee, Bruce Arena, and Eric Wynalda as the studio team. On the one hand, they don't know much about these teams or players, with the exception of Wynalda. On the other hand, maybe Fox is trying to sell this game to a broad audience? That can't be bad, right? Aw, who am I kidding? If ESPN figured out that European footie needs to be covered with an English accent, then Fox should learn the same. I'll be very interested to know what rating this game gets.

Bayern had their best chance right off the kick-off for the second half, but Muller shot the ball at Julio Cesar's legs. I like the youngster, but he seems a little Dirk Kujt-ish to me. Or maybe Eidur Gudjohnsen?

And that's that. Having already embarrassed Demichelis, Milito turns his attention to Van Buyten, absolutely skinning the Belgian on the world's biggest stage. Barca scored their killer goal to go up 2-0 in minute 70 last year; now, Inter has done the same. Trebles all around! And speaking of trebles, this is the second straight for Samuel Eto'o. That said, Eto'o has been rather peripheral for Inter in the second half of the season, giving way to Milito as the goal scorer. On the one hand, this shows that Guardiola and Beguiristain were correct in viewing Eto'o as less that a great finisher. On the other hand, Eto'o willingness to sublimate himself to the team's needs by doing the donkey work on the right side shows that his attitude is better than Barca thought.

Man, Mourinho's teams know how to kill a game off. Bayern looks like they are totally beaten.

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