France 98: When Michael Owen was Pele, and Zidane had hair – FourFourTwo’s Inside Track – FourFourTwo

Everything included, probably the best tournament I’ve seen.

France 98: When Michael Owen was Pele, and Zidane had hair – FourFourTwo’s Inside Track – FourFourTwo.

I was very young in 1986, and the entire tournament has a magical feeling to it. I had just started playing football, and just started liking the game. And let me be honest, my memory of the ’86 world cup is almost entirely clouded by that magical Diego goal, and the best world-cup football final I have yet seen.

1998 was different. This was a really great tournament. Everything about it was almost perfect. And this also saw the almost inevitable clash of the two greatest footballers of that generation, Ronaldo and Zidane. Ronaldo was incredible right through the tournament, and just fizzled in the finals. His redemption wold come in Japan and Korea, four years later. And while we see this as Zidane’s tournament, he was injured for a great part of the tournament, only being influential in the latter part of the tournament.

France had an incredible defence-line. Blanc and Desailly as the half-backs, Lizarazu and Thuram as full backs; Deschamps as the defensive midfielder and Petit as the ball-winner. That’s what won them match after match.

Brazil? They had Ronaldo. That was really enough. And Rivaldo. And Bebeto, now a shadow of the player four years ago.  And I sincerely believe that if Ronaldo were to be fit for the finals, they would have won. Nothing could stop Ronaldo in his pomp; not even the greatest defence ever assembled.

Other memories of the tournament:  THAT goal by Bergkamp! And while Ronaldo vs Zidane is what people remember this world cup by, Bergkamp vs Batistuta was equally captivating in my opinion. England? Owen, OWEN, OWEEEEEEEENNNNN! And of course Beckham’s red card. Nigeria — oh what a team they had! Jay Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Taribo West et al! Remember Salas and Zamorano? Croatia’s (or Davor Suker’s) demolition of Germany? Christian Vieri and his goalscoring? Brazil’s almost unbelievable loss to Norway (did they throw the match? — poor, poor Morocco)? Chilavert? The Blanco hop? USA vs Iran? Mehdi Mahdvikia?

Oh what great memories! Great, great tournament.

Paul Lambert’s CL win with Dortmund

Paul Lambert (yes, Villa’s Paul Lambert) was the first Brit to win the CL with a non-Brit club.

He won it with Dortmund (Winning Man of the Match in the final against Juventus, making an assist, and marking Zinedine Zidane out of the game)

Here’s the story, courtesy Guardian. An excerpt:

Lambert would end the season as Dortmund’s man of the match in their Champions League final triumph over Juventus, having shackled a bloke called Zinedine Zidane in midfield and also set up the opening goal of the 3-1 win for Karl-Heinz Riedle. The Glaswegian had been outstanding in both legs of the semi-final victory over Manchester United and he became the first British player to win the European Cup with a non-British club.

Bravo. What a story.

Messi / Ronaldo : fears

Here’s a prayer.

God, God, please ensure Messi stays intact. Please ensure there is no major injury to him.

The reason we want to compare Messi to di Stefano, to Pele and to Diego, is because this happened.

Ronaldo is still an all-time great. The highest goalscorer in the world cups. Sensational, and one of the two greatest talents in the post-Diego world (Messi being the other… not Zidane, while Zidane is a higher achiever than Ronaldo, and will rate higher than Ronaldo in the overall scales).

However, there could have been no comparison, the guy was so good. He could have been better than Pele and Maradona. But for that injury.

May Messi have a relatively injury-free playing life. Please? He is a gift to the football-loving public, a rare, precious thing.

Great Midfields – Guardian / Observer

This is from the Guardian SportsBlog (Click here)

Nice list. All six are credits to football; although I have not seen the Everton or Liverpool midfields and have seen only grainy footage of Didi and Garrincha…

If i were to make a list, it would surely include

The France Euro ’00 midfield

     Djorkaeff – Vieira – Deschamps – Zidane 

    (with a backup of Pires, Petit, Karembeu and Micoud)

The famous Arsenal midfield of the Invincible year 

   Ljungberg – Edu – Vieira – Pires 

(p.s. wonderful to see the Platini – Tigana – Giresse – Fernandez quartet, one of my first football memories…)

Sachin

VVS goes. And Sachin comes in.

And pardon me for this stream-of-consciousness post… that’s the best i can manage now…

He comes in. Small man. Strong gait. Confident in his abilities, poised to his responsibilities, and comfortable in his achievements. Like we have seen him for almost all our lives.

It is indeed amazing that for almost all my life as a cricket follower, Sachin has been performing for the country, and it has taken me this long to warm up to him.

As I have mentioned so many times earlier, for a serious sports-lover, it is almost impossible to have a devoted Sachin-following mindset, he seems almost unreal.

Okay, sorry, I was speaking for myself here, I guess.

Tiger, Federer and Sachin. And of course Jordan, Pete and Steffi a generation back. Zizou. These are the immortals. They never fail. They never falter. They are not human.

They had honed the almost unbelievable talent that has been bestowed upon them, with their own bit of hard graft. The monument of their performance has as much to do with blood and sweat, as with the gifts they had been born with.

They are perfect in their conduct in the field, they are perfect in their interaction to the media, and they are far away from controversy (or nearly so). They are noticed for their performances, and never for their extra-curricular activities, so as to say.

They are easy to respect, and difficult to love. Almost impossible to love, unless you are just a glory hound.

The cocky braggadocio of Pietersen and Kobe and the Williams sisters, even Djokovic in recent times; the sturdy determination of Border, Tomas Muster, Dravid and Lendl; the relative under-achievement of Barkley, Becker, Els and Ballack (and Azhar); the devil-may-care rabble rousing of Jimmy Connors and Ganguly; the genuine niceness and friendliness (as opposed to professional distance) of Shaq and Cesc and Adam Gilchrist; the precocious talent and almost performing-without-trying of Lara and McEnroe and Wasim; the passion of Nadal and Warne and Diego… these give in much more easily to fan-following…

It took a retirement from Graf for me to be a fan, it took a headbutt from Zidane for me to be his fan. Jordan never failed, and I could never be his fan. It took a sudden streak of vulnerability from Pete for me to be his fan…. and so has it been with Sachin.

Sachin, in the last two-three years, has been a pleasure to watch. His powers on the wane, his performance hasn’t. Hard graft, patience and sudden glimpses of flair have been the hallmarks of the recent Sachin. And tell me, the missed hundreds of the last year, haven’t they been exhilarating? And then the throwing up of the bat, reaching a hundred after long last, didn’t you jump off the seat at that moment, sharing the joy with him?

Best XI of my generation…

The question –

Of the football players you’ve seen live or on TV in your lifetime, who, as per you, are the best XI position by position? And also, which formation will you play them.

My list, and before that my own psychobabble… –

———————- Schmeichel—————-
—Cafu ———– Baresi — Nesta —— Maldini —
————-Matthaus ——– Rijkaard ———–
— ………
Hell, now what do I do? The best Striker- Support striker commbo would be Bati – Maradona
But cannot put Bati above Van Basten, why, even Baggio.

But I like the big guy-small guy brit kind strike line up, so well, Bati is the best Brit – style striker I ever saw. And however good v. Basten and Baggio were, they were not a patch on Diego(d). So.

———————- Schmeichel—————-
—Cafu ———– Baresi — Nesta —— Maldini —
————-Matthaus ——– Rijkaard ————
–Obvious Frenchman1 ——- Obvious Frenchman2 —-
———————- Maradona —————–
———————- Batistuta ——————

Honorable mentions – a few hundred. Starting from Rinat Dasaev to, really, Cesc Fabregas.

__________________________________________________

Now here’s to you. Put up your team. Comment on mine.