Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Are Spain really faltering or are Germany becoming dominant?

It was ideal when both Champions League semi finals pitted Spanish clubs up against German counterparts. We could really see how far these clubs have come and where they would go from here. It's hard to say who had the tougher tie because of the fact Bayern and Barca are both giants in the European game and have such a measured foundation to build on. On the other hand there's Dortmund and Madrid, we all know the history hanging over Mourinho's side in contrast to a young side with plenty of ambition.

Watching Bayern completely dismantle Barcelona in the first tie was horrible to watch because we are so used to seeing the Catalonians pleasuring the crowd with their style. I said to myself watching it that it looked like boys against men because in essence it's true. Look at the physical stature of players like Pedro, Messi, Iniesta in comparison to Muller, Gomez and Robben. Not only are the latter taller players but also stronger on the ball. Is it relevant?, well not usually but when they possess the same talent on the ball as the smaller contingent you think is the game drifting away from smaller players. Set piece is as important as ever. Height and weight seems to be everything in the modern game and it's not just football either, look at rugby, wingers used to be slight and tricky now they are powerful and fast because it's ever changing. Same with tennis, Federer was slight and used his grace to place his shots, nowadays look at Djokovic and Nadal and even Murray it's all about the power in forehand and backhand and just being generally quick around the court.

Anyway back on hand, Bayern put Barcelona to the sword with goals from Muller, Robben and Gomez, as I mentioned all tall players especially when you look at the goals aside from Robben's invidivual effort, all the rest happened to be physical and based on height. Barcelona there's no hiding are a small side, if you take out Pique, Busquets, Bartra then you take out the tallest players in the side, let's be honest Pedro, Messi, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta and Sanchez as brilliant as they are will not win headers and it's a major part of the game. Barca play the perfect game when the ball is in play although perhaps lacking cutting edge recently but once they win a corner/freekick that can't be shot at goal you just know it's going to result in the same result, Zilch.

This is not to say Barcelona are done for, by no means, they will come back stronger from this even if they get eliminated tonight. All great teams go through struggle before success. They just need to invest in some height whether it be up front, someone like Llorente would have been ideal. Or someone on the wings or in midfield and push Iniesta forward. Bayern had a few trump cards going into their leg, they had an established side, with momentum, physical attributes and also technical and a superb coach to guide them. Barca simply had no answer.

On the other hand last night I gazed upon one of the greatest Champions League nights in recent history, Dortmund did to Madrid what Bayern did to Barca, they completely dominated them and took their chances efficiently and closed up shop. Dortmund won 4-1 in Germany and instantly you're thinking Madrid will do well to come back from this but yet it almost happened last night and here's why?

Dortmund 4 Madrid 1

Robert Lewandowski was instrumental in guiding Dortmund to their historic success at home but yet was slightly influential in this tie and not taking the chances that he got presented with. Yes, he rattled the crossbar but with the talent he showed in the first leg you would have expected him to put a vulnerable Madrid to the sword and yet it was tighter than first imagined on the night.

In the first ten minutes of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu there could have been 3 goals had Higuin, Ozil and most notably Ronaldo found their composure, because of this Dortmund weather the storm with the impressive young partnership of Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic. Composure and coolness was on the menu at the back after that. Had Lewandowski and Reus found the net on the counter it could have been all but lights out but no. This was all going on despite Bayern bound Mario Gotze leaving the pitch to injury mid-way through the first half.

It never looked like becoming a struggle for the German champions until first Benzema bundles in after 82 minutes and then Sergio Ramos bundling in a strikers finish from the same man. Ronaldo had an appeal for a penalty following a slightly debatable challenge from substitute Felipe Santana but it was curtain for Mourinho and perhaps his Real career, a success maybe? but still he gave his biggest hint yet that he could be heading to Stamford Bridge, where he is 'loved'. La Liga is losing a huge asset and the Premier League gaining one but noone can doubt the man's ability and passion and also the superb tie that both sides put on last night. Best wishes to Dortmund in the final most likely to come up against their German counterparts, comiserations to Madrid and hope life after Mourinho is bright. The Champions League gives us moments like these which should be treasured and that's why football is truly spectacular.

Much appreciated

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