Euro 2012 already seems a long way ago now, but there’s still a warm glow round these parts from what was an excellent tournament performance by the Spanish team. I headed off for a break straight afterwards, but as I’m back now I better update the site.
Coverage included following the Spain team all the way through for the Irish Examiner newspaper – beginning with an interview / preview with La Roja author Jimmy Burns, looks at how the Spanish media was viewing their team and particularly their Irish opponents in the group stages, along with profiles throughout including some of captain and keeper Iker Casillas, young raiding left-back Jordi Alba and understated coach Vicente del Bosque.
There were also blogs for different sites during the tournament, including a look at early-tournament criticism of Del Bosque for TheScore.com and a pre-final analysis piece for The Football Ramble on the changing role of Xavi Hernandez within the Spanish line-up. Hard to know if he read it or not, but the Barca player did give his best performance of the summer a few days later…
After the 4-0 win over Italy there was a tournament wrap for UK magazine When Saturday Comes, giving the view from Madrid on La Roja’s successful bid to make history by winning three consecutive . That’s not online, but you can buy a copy here or from all good UK & Ireland newsagents. And now, for 2012/13…
The build-up to Friday’s Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao was overshadowed by a political storm whipped up after Catalan and Basque fans said they would whistle the Spanish national anthem in the stadium. Politicans in Madrid condemned such “separatist” ideas and suddenly a fierce debate was underway about 20th century Spanish history and current national identity. Lots of material then for my first piece for El País’s Trans-Iberian blog.
The most worrying was the permitting of a neo-fascist march through Madrid on the day of the game, while fans from Bilbao and Barcelona soaking up the sun and enjoying themselves elsewhere in the city. I took my camera along and got pics of some very dodgy characters from La Falange and other ultra right-wing groups. The Facebook album can be viewed by anyone by clicking through here.
With so much going on it was easy to forget there was actually a game to play – I provided a preview of the match for the FOX Soccer website, and then a report for the Sport 360 newspaper in Dubai as Barcelona easily outclassed their opponents with goals from Pedro (2) and Messi to claim a 14th trophy of Pep’s four seasons in charge.
The big news this week was Carles Puyol’s shock announcement on Tuesday that he would miss the tournament with a knee injury. I was standing by to provide a piece for the Irish Examiner newspaper, which looked at Spain’s other defensive options and also the pretty shambolic nature of their preparations.
The new issue of When Saturday Comes magazine also hit the shelves, and comes with a handy Euro 2012 guide for which I’ve written the Spain bits. Sara Carbonero, Manolo ‘el del Bombo’ & Vicente Del Bosque’s acting talents all get a mention.
But we shouldn’t forget the Europa League final. My report for Sport 360 talked up both Diego Simeone’s tactical set-up and Radamel Falcao’s magical finishing, while there was also room for a Sport 360 analysis piece arguing Athletic Bilbao’s players and fans should dry their tears as if they stick together ‘la Gabarra’ can float again.
What a week this has been in Spanish football. Last Saturday Real Madrid won 2-1 at Barcelona to just about seal this season’s La Liga crown. Once the final whistle had gone I popped down to the city centre Cibeles fountain to report from the celebrations for Fox Soccer.
On Tuesday Barcelona agonisingly lost out to Chelsea at the Camp Nou. That prompted an analysis piece for Sport 360, looking at what had gone wrong for Guardiola’s men. The game reinforced a previous feeling that Barca were slipping which had included a look at their Messidependencia for Sport 360 and a Cesc Fábregas wakes up to reality Football Ramble blog.
The drama continued at the Bernabéu on Wednesday where I was reporting for Sport 360 as Real Madrid slipped agonisingly out of the Champions League on penalties to Bayern Munich (pictured is Neuer about to save Ronaldo’s). Then it was downstairs to listen to coaches José Mourinho and Jupp Heynckes and share their views on the game for Fox Soccer. Again Madrid’s demise was no huge shock to those who’d been following La Liga’s marathon race closely, as blogged about for Canada’s The Score.com site.
Friday came the report for Sport 360.com from the Barcelona press conference where Josep Guardiola confirmed he was leaving as head coach and assistant Tito Vilanova was stepping up. Saturday’s Sport 360 newspaper had a profile of the new boss as he stepped out of Guardiola’s shadow and a piece on how Pep’s departure might affect the big names within the Barca squad.
As Sport 360′s Spanish correspondent I’ve been taking in a lot of live games – at Osasuna’s Reyno de Navarra stadium to see Barcelona’s La Liga challenge falter with a dramatic 3-2 defeat, Real Madrid’s Bernabéu to watch Mourinho’s men steamroll (almost) all opposition, Barcelona’s Camp Nou to see Messi’s record breaking five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League and Bilbao’s San Mamés to see Athletic outrun and outclass Manchester United in the Europa League.
There’s also been time for some more reasoned (ahem) analysis – with regular pieces for Sport 360 including this one on the emergence of Iker Muniain at Athletic and this one on the sinking of Villarreal’s Yellow Submarine, plus pieces for Fox Soccer including Málaga’s seeming emergence as a La Liga ‘third force‘ , and the Football Ramble looking at why the recent ‘law of silence’ at Real Madrid had more to do with internal dressingroom squabbles than anger at refereeing decisions.
Through all this I’ve been on Twitter – follow me here for regular updates, links and the like…
2012 began with a bang in Spanish football, with the month’s two Copa Clásicos. This meant a report from the Bernabéu on Barca’s first leg victory, tactical analyses such as this one on the pros and cons of Barca’s deployment of Cesc Fábregas and Alexis Sánchez, and an opinion piece arguing José Mourinho was threatening to quit as he knows he could likely be sacked anyway. There has also been La Liga bread and butter to keep up with – like this report from the Bernabéu on Madrid 3-1 Zaragoza.
There’s also been more stuff for FOX Soccer. This first game preview weighed up the respective squad depths, the immediate after-game analysis looked at how Barca coach Guardiola was rewarded for keeping the faith and this return leg preview looked at Mourinho’s struggles to meet sky-high expectations in Madrid.
Away from the big two the latest When Saturday Comes magazine has a piece from me looking at how the RFEF have been milking their World Cup winners by arranging prestige friendlies around the world for €2m a pop. And on the blogs there’s been a look at the continuing soap opera behind the scenes at Rayo Vallecano for the Football Ramble and a piece for Iberosphere on the serious implications for Spanish football clubs of a recent 7% income tax hike.
Last weekend brought the biggest game in Spanish club football so far this season with Barcelona in Madrid for the first La Liga Clásico. This meant plenty of previews to write for Sport 360, including views from both teams’ final press conferences (Barca – Madrid) and also a tactical look at where the game might be decided.
Being on the spot here in Madrid helped get me a first piece on the FOX Soccer website – which discussed whether Mourinho would sacrifice style for pragmatism in his approach. My weekly Football Ramble blog predicted that Barcelona have Messi, so Barcelona would win.
This was more or less (ahem) how the game played out and although Madrid went ahead early, Barca roared back to win 3-1. The match report went to Sport 360 right on the whistle, while I went downstairs to listen to Guardiola and Mourinho and processed what they said into a look at what Pep got very right for FOX Soccer.
There was then some follow-ups for Monday’s Sport 360 with Mourinho ruing missed chances from Cristiano Ronaldo. By Tuesday Barcelona were already in Japan to take part in the Club World Cup. So quite a busy Clasicó weekend, but pretty rewarding too.
November’s been exciting enough as I’ve settled into role as Spanish correspondent for UAE newspaper Sport 360. It still takes a bit of time to explain about being an Irish guy living in Madrid writing in English, about Spanish football, for readers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it’s working well.
There’s definitely been plenty to write about, including lots of goals. I’ve been to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to report for the paper on Madrid’s 7-1 win over Osasuna in La Liga, 6-2 hammering of Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League and 4-1 win over nine man Atlético in the Madrid derby. I also got to direct a visiting Croatian journalist to the Bernabéu mixed-zone, which was nice to be able to do. This close view was handy when it came to writing about why Madrid are playing so well at the moment.
Besides Madrid there’s also been plenty of different Spanish football stuff to cover for Sport 360 – including a breakdown of Lionel Messi’s first 202 goals for Barcelona, a preview of Spain’s ultimately unsuccessful recent trip to Wembley and a profile of ex-Atlético and Sevilla and new Al Ahli coach Quique Sanchez Flores.
My weekly blog on the Football Ramble website is handy for looking at different aspects of the Spanish game – recent pieces have covered the Galician derby down in La Segunda, Sergio Ramos’ mistaken view of his own strengths and the wheels coming off at Real Betis. There was also a blog for Iberosphere about how Jose Mourinho can’t but smile when everything’s going his way. More seriously, I wrote a piece for the latest When Saturday Comes magazine on the influence of Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes has on various La Liga clubs. No link for that one, but you should buy the magazine.
When Jesus ‘Chus’ Pereda, a goalscorer in Spain’s 1964 European Nations Cup final win, passed away recently at the age of 73, I wasn’t surprised by the wave of sympathy and nostalgia in Spain, with fond remembrances from former colleagues, older journalists and current national coach Vicente del Bosque. More of a shock though, were the recollections of a 40 year conspiracy of silence which followed the tournament win.
It looked an interesting story, mixing sporting glory and political intrigue, i.e. perfect material for my weekly Football Ramble blog, so I did a bit more digging around and found out that Chus had been edited out of the official film of the Spanish winning goal…
“The footage had been put together in a way which, depending on your point of view, was either a technical error or politically motivated. Most people were none the wiser, and those who did know kept their mouths shut even after fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, in keeping with the ‘pact of forgetting’ agreed when democracy was established in Spain. Spanish TV showed the doctored action right up until 2008, when Canal Plus show Fiebre Maldini found the actual footage in a Dutch TV archive.”
The fullstory (or at least an honestly put together version of it) is through here on the Ramble site.
A preview of last week’s Barcelona Sociedad game which hinted at the defensive issues Barca would show is here, while a report on Madrid’s ding-dong 4-2 win over Getafe is here. A preview and then report on Málaga’s impressive 4-0 win against Getafe at La Rosaleda followed on Monday. Then there were match reports on Barca 2 – Milan 2 and Dinamo Zagreb 0 – Madrid 1.
Possibly the most interesting tie this week in Spain though is Atlético Madrid hosting Celtic in a match which has brought back memories of the team’s previous meeting in the 1974 European Cup semi-final. My preview of 2011′s Europa League group game for Sport 360 is here, while I also did a piece for the Football Ramble looking at how the Scottish and Spanish media have taken contrasting approaches to recalling the 1974 tie which saw three Atléti players sent off and left a lot of bitterness in Glasgow.