Some thoughts on FC Barcelona’s style, one that yielded trophy-filled substance


When Barcelona brushed aside Manchester United last year, claiming its second Champions League title in three years, I wrote about hyperbole.

I wrote in my blog about journalists’ over dependence on it. They are prone to it the way excited teenagers are prone to drama, admittedly. It’s part of the journalistic condition; we like to feel that we are living in, and writing about, history in the making.

All that said, I truly felt that Barcelona FC’s recent version, under Pep Guardiola’s masterful watch, must surely have been among the top individual clubs of all time.

To see what they did that 2011 day (pictured) to Sir Alex Ferguson’s might men was breathtaking. Remember, this outstanding Manchester United assembly had just won another English Premier League title, crowned champions in an association so many consider the globe’s best. And yet, the loss to Barcelona looked like varsity vs. JV on the schoolyard.

I wrote that Barcelona, guided majestically by Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi, were absolutely playing a different game – and quite a beautiful one.

When elements of substance and style come together so seamlessly, so effectively, something truly enlightened is going on.

See, there’s that hyperbole I talked about. But I believe it’s justified in this case.

The entire side’s ability to create space and maintain the tidiest of control is like none I’ve ever seen. Their overall tactical awareness and individual attention to spacing and efficient movement off the ball is sublime. Their passing precision (giving the ball to the correct foot, for instance, at just the right moment) is utterly enlightened. Their footwork is perennially bright and active. And consider that the level of fitness required for that pressing game is something most of can’t fathom.

That’s what I wrote on my blog a year ago.

This year’s Barcelona? Something was clearly missing, a knife’s edge gone dull. Still, what Guardiola built over four years shouldn’t be diminished. The blessedness of substance meeting style never should be.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia