Germany Soccer Champions League Final

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League final: Chelsea 1 (4-3 on kicks), Bayern Munich 1

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Man of the Match: Didier Drogba was nearly the goat, taking down Franck Ribéry four minutes into extra time, just minutes after his blistering header off Chelsea’s first corner pushed the match to extra time. With the post kick, Arjen Robben blasted the potential winner into Petr Cech’s stomach, setting the stage for Drogba’s second moment of glory. With the final kick of the shootout, Drogba slotted his kick into the lower left-hand corner fo Manuel Neuer’s goal, giving Chelsea their first European Cup.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The story was so obvious, we mentioned it in our preview. John Terry and Frank Lampard are more readily associated with Chelsea FC, but Drogba has been the Blues’ most important man in the Roman Abramovich era. Playing what might be his last match with the club (his contract up), this game always seemed destined to revolve around Didier Drogba.
  • And once his kick decided it, this match became one of the more compelling individual dramas in recent memory. With his global stature, recent resurgence, contract situation and Moscow antics (getting sent off in the 2008 final when he would have been the fifth penalty kick-taker) as prologue, Drogba was hard-pressed to produce a night that didn’t undermine the plot. But he did it. The 88th minute goal was exactly what you’re expect if you were fabricating the night’s drama. The 94th minute mistake, giving up a penalty kick? Merely raising the stakes. Converting the winning kick in the shootout? The only way it could end.
  • Surely, Drogba must be re-signed at this point, right? He wants a two-year deal. Give it to him. At this point in their history, Chelsea is not Chelsea without Didier Drogba.
  • When it comes to penalty shootouts, each hero has a corresponding goat. That goat is (surprisingly) Bastian Schweinsteiger. With Bayern’s last kick, their all-world midfielder went off the right post, the hesitation he offered in his run up to the ball betraying the moment. The cool he showed in sealing the shootout in Madrid had abandoned him, and unlike John Terry, Schweinsteiger can’t point to the turf as a reason he missed his try.
  • Perhaps somebody less enthralled by the Drogba narrative might have picked Petr Cech as man of the match. A great save on Robben early, the penalty save late, command of his box throughout the match, and diving the right way on all five shootout kicks – if he’s not man of the match, he’s a close second.
  • Of note on the shootout: Neither Arjen Robben nor Fernando Torres took kicks. With Robben’s miss so late in the match, his exclusion was understandable. Torres was caught on camera talking to Roberto Di Matteo, who seemed to ask him if he wanted to be on the sheet. Torres, finally said yes after being asked a couple of times. It seems Di Matteo decided better of it.
  • Despite the result, it doesn’t appear Di Matteo will be back. With this win, however, he can walk into most jobs in the world. Given the distinct tactical changes Di Matteo employed after taking over for André Villas-Boas, the former MK Dons and West Brom boss has reason to feel himself an integral part of Chelsea’s triumph.
  • Though they let Bayern control most of the match, Chelsea’s night was defined by a serious of strong individual performances. Cech’s night was made easier by the stellar shifts from his fullbacks, Ashley Cole and José Bosingwa. John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard were impenetrable in the middle. Juan Mata, when given a chance to turn and run with the ball, often produced at least a half-chance for Chelsea (and delivered a great ball on the first goal). And Ryan Bertrand, making his European debut, gave a relentless performance before being brought off after 74 minutes.
  • Bayern can’t say the same. Manuel Neuer was good in the shootout, scoring a goal and stopping Mata’s try. Still, some will say his hands should have been stronger on Drogba’s goal. Philipp Lahm provided good support for the midfield and, late, tried to push Bayern to a winning goal. Franck Ribery was Bayern’s best player until leaving in the 94th minute. Aside from those three, no Bayern player performed to the best of his abilities.
  • Mario Gomez missed four chances that he might have converted another day. Arjen Robben continuously put 24-yard shots toward goal that had no confidence behind them. Thomas Müller scored in the 82nd minute but also found himself lost on the right for long spans of the match. The double pivot of Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos failed to force holes in the Chelsea defense despite having the freedom to play at the edge of the final third for much of the match.
  • That was a function of Chelsea’s tactics, very similar to what we saw against Barcelona. The team sad very deep, possibly to protect their returning central defenders (David Luiz and Gary Cahill). While you could say the approach paid off, the Blues were down after 82 minutes and may not have won had Bayern not made a very important change.
  • That change: Taking off Müller, moments after scoring (replacing him with Daniel van Buyten), conceding control of the match to Chelsea. It’s not an uncommon approach – bring on an extra defender to see out the match – but the way Bayern was dominating the ball, they could have kept Müller on and bled out the clock. Jupp Heynckes went with the more conservative option, and after Chelsea equalized, he was left to play out the match with his more defensive lineup.
  • Detractors will point to that as yet another break Chelsea got on their way to the title. Those detractors will look at the way Chelsea won their semifinal the final and note all the “luck” the Blues needed to claim their first Champions League. But in a tournament like this one, everybody winner needs some luck to claim the title. There are just too many matches against too many good teams to expect your side to emerge victorious without getting breaks along the way.
  • And when you consider the John Terry red card at Barça, Chelsea’s three other suspensions, Drogba giving up two crucial penalty kicks (over the last two rounds) and having to play the final on the road with two just-returning center halves, it’s unclear Chelsea has received more luck than your average UEFA Champions League winner.
  • Very shortly, people are going to forget about all these ancillary concerns. Even the qualms about the tactics will dissipate in time. All that UEFA will write in their record books is the name of the victor. Chelsea FC are winners of 2011-12’s UEFA Champions League – the crowning achievement for one of the more memorable club teams of our lifetime.

Kaka hoping to stay in Orlando beyond 2017

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 08:  Kaka #10 of Orlando City SC dribbles the ball during an MLS soccer match between the New York City FC and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on March 8, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
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Kaka is enjoying life in Florida.

The former Ballon d’Or winner is hoping to stay with Orlando City SC beyond the end of his contract, which runs its course after the 2017 season.

[ MORE: Real Madrid now winless in three ]

Kaka has been very good for the Lions, scoring 19 goals and 15 assists in 53 total matches. Reports had said he’s skip town after the third year of the deal, but Kaka refutes that idea.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“A misunderstanding because I am very happy here,” Kaká told reporters at MLS Media Day on Tuesday. “I had a three year contract, so this is the last year under this contract, but my idea is to stay here.

“Of course we never know what can happen at the end of the season or during the season, but my idea for now is to stay in Orlando and stay in the league.”

Kaka turns 35 in April, but has been consistently good even if injuries kept him to 24 MLS contests last season. If he puts forth a similar season, there’s little reason for Orlando — or another team — not to take a chance on Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.

Gabriel Jesus cleared, could make Man City debut

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 20:  Gabriel Jesus of Palmeiras runs with the ball during the match between Palmeiras and Botafogo for the Brazilian Series A 2016 at Allianz Parque on November 20, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
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Gabriel Jesus could go straight into Manchester City’s starting lineup.

The 19-year-old Brazilian has finally been cleared to suit up for the English side after finishing a title-winning campaign with Palmeiras.

With four goals in six caps for the Brazil national team and an Olympic gold medal with their U-23 side, Jesus is among the hottest prospects in the world.

[ MORE: City fifth in “Money League” ]

City is struggling, and the fresh injection of attacking talent could be music to the ears of boss Pep Guardiola (who, fun fact, celebrates his 46th birthday today).

From the Manchester Evening News:

“He’s a great player. Going to Europe is a good thing for a player. He will grow quicker, he will start to understand football in another way and also be respected inside the football scene.

“I guess that for Gabriel Jesus it was a good thing to leave Brazilian soccer, he did everything he had could in [Brazil]. He’s going to a very difficult, competitive [type of football] but I think that he can be successful.”

Jesus had 21 goals in 46 matches this season with Palmeiras.

Casemiro: “Real Madrid aren’t ever allowed to lose”

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 18:  Henrique Casemiro of Real Madrid heads the ball against Daniel Wass of Celta de Vigo during the Copa del Rey Quarter Final, First Leg match between Real Madrid CF and  Celta Vigo at Bernabeu on January 18, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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The pressure at Real Madrid can be overwhelming, and the players who thrive there generally have thick skin and short memories.

They also take losses pretty seriously.

That goes for the manager as well, as both Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and Casemiro have reacted to Real’s third-straight non-win in serious fashion.

[ MORE: Real no longer No. 1 in money ]

Remember, this is coming after the first match of the “slump” — a 3-3 draw with Sevilla — was the final match of a world record 40-match unbeaten run.

Casemiro, whose record in the Real Madrid lineup is as good as anyone’s, said this (via Marca):

“Yes, it’s worrying to lose again,” he said just after the full-time whistle. “Real Madrid aren’t ever allowed to lose. The defeat against Sevilla has hurt us.”

And if you want to tell Casemiro to relax, that only one of those matches was in league play and the club still leads the table by a point with a match-in-hand on nearly everyone… well… enter Zidane.

“I’m the one responsible and I must find the solution,” he said in his post-match press conference. “I wasn’t surprised by the way Celta played, as we knew that they’re a team that can really hurt you. I’m not worried, although it’s a bad moment. We know that we can overcome it and we are going to overcome it.”

I’m far from a Real Madrid fan, and you can credit Florentino Perez’s ideas and the hanky-waving fans for a lot of that, but it’s impossible not admire how seriously Real takes the business of winning. And maybe, just maybe, the fan and board expectations occasionally help the squad.

Run-up shootouts, per-player match limits on FIFA’s agenda

Marco van Basten, Dutch football manager and former football player, poses for a photo on the green carpet while arriving prior to the The Best - FIFA Football Awards 2016 ceremony held at the Swiss TV studio in Zurich, Switzerland, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.  (Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP)
Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP
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Restricting players to 60 games a year. Replacing penalty shootouts with eight-second run-ups. Introducing orange cards to send players off for 10 minutes. Scrapping offside.

Former AC Milan and Netherlands forward Marco van Basten is using his role as technical director at FIFA to propose a series of changes to soccer to stir a debate.

[ MORE: Costa back for Chelsea ]

Rather than using his job to meddle, Van Basten highlights the need to preserve soccer as the world’s most popular sport.

“I have spoken to a lot of coaches and players,” Van Basten said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have to promote quality instead of quantity. We are playing too much football now. We have to defend players because they have to play so much and are not fresh or fit anymore.

“That’s bad for the quality of the game. Even in June when the big tournaments are played players cannot perform to their maximum because now if players are really successful they can play up to 75 official games in the year. I think that’s a bit too much and maybe they should stop at 55 or 60.”

Although FIFA will expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from 2026, that won’t burden players with any additional games. Instead, clubs sides would have to explore reducing the number of fixtures, potentially by reducing the number of lucrative friendly games played on tours.

[ MORE: Real Madrid now winless in three ]

“That’s all for money but we have to think about football and not money,” said Van Basten, who was hired by FIFA in September. “For a lot of clubs that’s not easy. But there is enough money in football.

“(Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi are earning so much money. If they are earning a little bit less but performing better that’s good for football.”

Asked about countries like England or France no longer playing two cup competitions alongside their league fixtures, Van Basten said: “In my opinion that should be an interesting discussion.”

Van Basten knows some of radical changes he proposed to the AP could make traditionalists uneasy. But the 1992 FIFA world player of the year wants to ensure the global game has a say on its future.

“We should not just let the game be organized by those with the money,” he said from FIFA HQ in Zurich. “The big clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Real Madrid who have everything.”

“In football you need opponents, competition because if you are alone with two or three clubs controlling everything you don’t have any competition.”

Here are some potential changes to soccer proposed by Van Basten:

PENALTY SHOOTOUTS

Rather than burdening players with an additional 30 minutes of action when cup games are level after 90 minutes, Van Basten is suggesting going straight to penalties.

“I think everybody is pretty tired after 120 minutes,” Van Basten said.

Now penalties are a test of nerves with players having one chance to beat the goalkeeper from the penalty spot.

“Maybe the player should start 25 meters from goal and then you can dribble the goalkeeper or shoot early,” he said. “But you have to make a goal within eight seconds. It’s more skill and less luck. It’s maybe a bit more spectacular. It’s more football but it’s still nervous for the player.”

NO OFFSIDE

Scrapping the offside rule could make soccer more visually appealing, Van Basten advises.

“I think it can be very interesting watching a game without offside,” he said. “Football now is already looking a lot like handball with nine or ten defenders in front of the goal. It’s difficult for the opposition to score a goal as it’s very difficult to create something in the small pieces of space they give you.

“So if you play without offside you get more possibilities to score a goal.”

FOUR QUARTERS

Soccer is increasingly intense and grueling, with a single 15-minute break between 45-minute halves.

“We are trying to help the game, to let the game develop in a good way,” Van Basten said. “We want to have a game which is honest, which is dynamic, a nice spectacle so we should try to do everything to help that process.”

Introducing four quarters could be advantageous.

“The coach can have three times with his players during the game,” Van Basten said.

SINBINS

Now there is no middle ground between players being shown a yellow card and receiving a red card and then being removed for the rest of the game.

“Maybe an orange card could be shown that sees a player go out of the game for 10 minutes for incidents that are not heavy enough for a red card,” Van Basten said.

Such an instance could be when a player commits repeat fouls that didn’t warrant yellow cards or obstruct opponents. Five misdemeanors could earn a player a place in a sin bin for 10 minutes, Van Basten said.

NEXT STEPS

Any changes to the laws of the game cannot be forced through by Van Basten, however close he is to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. He said he wants to listen to the views of world before any proposals are taken to the game’s law-making body, The International Football Association Board. FIFA controls half of the eight votes on IFAB, with the other four retained by the British associations.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports