Masterful. Superior. Brilliant. Perfection.
These four words definitively encapsulate the performance of Bayern Munich versus the best team in the world yesterday and of the last five years, FC Barcelona, at the grand Allianz Arena in their first UEFA Champions League semifinal match-up. The final score at the end of 93 minutes was 4-nil in favor of “The Bavarians.”
For Bayern Munich fans, last night’s game was absolutely magical.
There are many necessary elements to playing a great soccer game, like good passing, control, positioning and shooting. However, one of the lost arts of “the beautiful game” is the importance of fitness (and some height).
The pure dominance of Lionel Messi and Co. courtesy of Bayern Munich provided a world-class training video in how to surrender more than sixty percent of the possession, and yet, still crush your opponent physically, mentally and on the scoreboard. How? Being efficient and running, running and running. From the very first whistle, the players in red and gold were sprinting to every mark and every man. And yes, this included lone forward Mario Gomez and winger Arjen Robben. To emphasize, they were not jogging, but running and sprinting to every gap and to virtually every space in front of every opposing player on the pitch for the entire game. They successfully executed my suggested defense against FC Barcelona, “The Crocodile Trance,” from back in late March. They were positioned correctly, allowed for possession and then attacked at the exact right moment. Lionel Messi, their maestro in the middle, had no oxygen to get the Barça offense breathing.
FC Barcelona’s excellent brand and bottle of offensive wine, with its smooth taste and dancing flavors, was kept corked in a cellar back in Catalonia.
What was more startling was the fourth and fifth gears the Bayern offense operated with while on the counter-attack after persistent, and seemingly exhausting, defending. Each time they had possession in Barcelona’s side of the field, there was legitimate reason to believe a goal could be scored.
And on four occasions, that happened. The goal scorers were Thomas Müller with a brace, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben.
A magnificent game plan with an outstanding display of fitness and spacial awareness coupled with good passing, control, shooting and timely height advantages led to one of the most dominating soccer performances in Champions League history, a sentiment being widely echoed.
Here are a couple player reactions from last night’s game.
“[Barcelona] have dominated Europe over the last five years, and to beat them like this in such a terrific way, I think we have to be proud. But on the other hand, let’s be humble about it and enjoy this evening, because there’s still a game to play and we have to be ready [for the second leg].”
—Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich
“The comeback is very complicated,” Messi said.
“They were better than us, they were much stronger. They were superior in everything.”
—Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona
However, there is still one more game to be played in this leg at Camp Nou. FC Barcelona is still considered to be the best team in the world by many. The key words in the previous sentence are, “by many.” After witnessing Bayern Munich’s 4-0 triumph, some are starting to believe this was a “passing of the torch” of sorts for the unofficial crown of the next best team in the world.
This hypothesis will become more clear, but still not solidified, after next Wednesday’s match. But consider this: Bayern Munich has a four goal advantage and a single away goal from them is equivalent to two. Plus, the mastermind behind tika-taka and the massive success the past few years at FC Barcelona, Pep Guardiola, will be the new head coach in Munich next season. Also, Bayern Munich became the fastest team to ever lock-up the Bundesliga Title earlier this season and are set to compete in the German Cup Championship, DFB-Pokal, against VfB Stuttgart on June 1st while under the steady leadership of head coach Jupp Heynckes.
Even just up to this point of the season, Heynckes deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the work he and his coaching staff have orchestrated so far this season. Bravo!
Again, there is still one game left to be played in this semifinal at Camp Nou and the hosts will certainly not be welcoming and will be preparing to fire on all cylinders. All cannons will be lit. It will be an exciting and aggressive game. Camp Nou and all of Catalonia will be rocking.
Still, pending a certain result, the 4-0 victory could prove to be not just a solitary 93 minute sprint, but perhaps the beginning of an enduring marathon of footballing dominance. It’s certainly a fascinating proposition to imagine…
At least for one week, Bayern Munich fans can share Arjen Robben’s sentiment.
Photo By Keeghann Sinanan, Goal.com
I think this look signifies, quite simply, “Yup. We did that.”
This afternoon, German footballing giants Bayern Munich travel to the city of Turin in northern Italy for the second leg of the quarterfinal match-up versus Juventus F.C. Holding a 2-nil lead, Bayern Munich needs to maintain a clean sheet to remove any stress in order advance to their third UEFA Champions League Semifinals in the past four years. However, Juventus are the hosts and they surely will have a surprise dish or two prepared for their guests tonight.
Beyond Manuel Neuer and his four guards preventing entry from the enemy by raising their drawbridge to protect their defensive castle, the optimum number on Bayern Munich’s mind is one.
The crack that would break “The Old Lady’s” back would almost undoubtedly be a solitary, and heavily valued, away goal from the high-powered offensive attack of “The Bavarians.” Their arsenal includes Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Mandžukić. And don’t forget about Philipp Lahm streaking down the right flank from his defensive post every once in a while…
After securing the Bundesliga Title last weekend (earliest for any team in league history), the new motto for FC Hollywood likely contains three powerfully definitive words.
Kickoff is 2:45 p.m. EST
Last night on “60 Minutes,” one report showed Anderson Cooper literally swimming along the bottom of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, located in Southern Africa. He and a small group of dare devils swam through murky underwater caves, mere feet from one of the most feared predators on the planet: the Nile Crocodile. Seeing previews for this from the days prior and watching the segment Sunday night sparked a random revelation for a subject completely unrelated to the 20-foot reptiles. What did the story remind me of?
This footballing giant features Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and David Villa, to name a few. They are a brilliant passing team, perfecting the tika taka system (Search “Three is a Magic Number”). This strategy is rooted in movements that continually create triangular passing lanes. If and when they lose the ball, they even have a defensive protocol to regain possession within six seconds. Stating the obvious, the kings of Barça are widely considered to be the premier club in the world the past few years. Reflect on this mind-blowing statistic for Argentine Lionel Messi, a Barcelona youth academy graduate. Rik Sharma of The Daily Mail UK online succinctly described Messi’s achievement at the conclusion of last year in a December 22, 2012 article.
“He broke Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old milestone of 85 goals in a calendar year by grabbing 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina.”
I don’t think I ever scored that many goals with one player in EA Sports’ Fifa on PlayStation!
The elite reputation of Messi, and Barcelona, is unequivocally well deserved.
With such a dominating philosophy and collection of championship trophies, the proposition presented before each of their opponents is deciding how to prepare defensively. Here is my analysis, assisted by the underwater king of the Nile.
I call it The Crocodile Trance.
Playing Barcelona, there will inevitably be stretches when they string together ten or twelve passes together on their opponents side of the field, possibly ten to fifteen yards outside the 18 yard box. As they build up a quick one-two or a give ‘n go to penetrate the defense or open up for a long distance shot, this is when TCT should be utilized.
When crocodiles attack, they are frequently laying perfectly still like a horizontal statue on land, submerged in water or are moving so unassumingly they are barely visible and are not seen and/or perceived as an immediate threat. They spot their prey from a distance and then slowly move in. We’ve all seen the clips. Dogs, in contrast, will pursue without any delay and can frequently miss their target (remember “Tom & Jerry”). The point is they are unique in this tact. Conversely, the gigantic cold blooded reptiles are patient and wait for the exact right time to strike. At least nine times out of ten (while not a scientific statistic, it’s probably pretty accurate), crocodiles are victorious in their mind game with their prey.
Insert Barcelona. Defenses cannot become psychologically discouraged by their passing superiority during short and long stretches throughout the ninety minutes. Instead, they need to keep the ball and their mark in front of them, try to detect a pattern and allow the offense to feel comfortable. Appear to be non-threatening. Then, at this precise moment, after putting a trance of sorts on the offense, step up and in as if lunging from the Nile river onto the water sipping (and devastatingly unfortunate) prey.
To be clear, the objective is not to commit a hard foul or be brutal in nature. This suggestion is an approach to turn the advantage from an offensive juggernaut to an over-matched defense in the appropriate situations. The tackles or lunges are intended to be clean.
Sans the Tyrannosaurus Rex chomping strength and the accompanying lethal consequences of a crocodile attack, the strategy of laying back a little bit, being patient and stepping into a passing lane or pressuring a player at the instance they’ve presumed to put you to sleep is a viable game plan for attempting to defend one of the most prolific goal scorers in history, along with his talented friends.
The men of Camp Nou will know you’re there, but the key is for that to be the only thing they know.