Sunday, June 04, 2017

Simply gorgeous

The amount of control and skill exhibited there, not only by the goal scorer, but the three previous players who touched the ball, is truly remarkable. It still wasn't enough to beat Real Madrid, but it does justify the description of the sport as "the beautiful game".

My last season started pretty well. I practiced indoor over the winter with Ender's loan team, and although I did pick up a minor ankle sprain when getting them almost literally broken by the shifty center-mid, I did have one shining moment of Messi-like glory when I managed to dribble past three opposing players before scoring. It was enough to provoke a respectful "whoah" from the young guys; I didn't bother to tell them it was one of the first times in 30 years that I've managed to beat three players in succession without relying on speed.

Of course, the kids show no proper respect for their elders these days. After I was floored by virtue of blocking an attempted cross with my face, instead of rushing to my aid, my obviously concerned son shouted "you break it, you bought it" at the guilty party.

I started most of the games this season, but almost all of them on the wing rather than in attack. We didn't have a particularly good season, as we finished last in a group that we probably could have won if we hadn't given away three games to injury, one of which was mine. A number of the younger guys have replaced the old guard, and but we still don't have a proper replacement for our oft-injured center-mid, and without him we just don't generate very many good opportunities for the attackers.

But we have a new captain next year, and he's a bit more of a tactician than his predecessor, so it will be interesting to see what he does and how he shuffles the players around. I've played up front with him before, so I'll be curious to see if he puts me back on the attack or relegates me to the bench in favor of one of the younger guys on the wing. Either way, it's fine. Given my age, I prefer to play 40 to 60 minutes per game rather than the whole 90 minutes.

Ender's season was difficult, as he spent most of it coming off the bench and playing on the field instead of in goal for a team that lost all of its games except the last two. But his season ended very well indeed, as he played the final game in goal, held the opponents to two goals, stopped two one-on-zeros (picking up a yellow in the process) and came up with a last-minute kick-save to preserve a 3-2 upset. He's also very happy to be returning to our club next season; our second team needs a backup goalie since the first-team goalie is moving up to join the vets, so they asked for his return from the loan team.

I'm always sad to see another season end, but these days I'm also relieved to reach one without any serious injuries. This summer, my goal is to cut another 7 pounds, stretch every day, and do speed drills once a week. I'll need to do all that just to keep up now that we have guys who are 17 years younger joining the team this fall.



Anonymous BRZ MK June 04, 2017 6:36 AM  

Beautiful goals in a very good match. Still trying to understand what made Real Madrid so superior in the second half.
First half was very equal between both teams.

Anonymous The Pissed Off Teacher June 04, 2017 6:40 AM  

Oh, that was lovely!

Anonymous BRZ MK June 04, 2017 6:40 AM  

Zidane is a fantastic coach. It is remarkable how RM improved under his direction.

Blogger JACIII June 04, 2017 7:41 AM  

Looks like a soccer equivalent of the alley-oop. The most impressive part is the arc the scorer shot into the goal. Tiny, tiny window to fit the ball through between goalie and bar.
I want to call "luck" or "freak" here, but I know jack-shit about the game and the man definitely deserves the glory.

Blogger VD June 04, 2017 7:46 AM  

It's not luck. It's more the combination of a) the only possible move and b) skill. Each of those acts are intentional. Mandzukic goes for the bicycle because he's got two world-class defenders right on him, and he knows he has no chance if he lets the ball fall to the ground and tries to turn and shoot. He also knows the keeper is to the left side of the goal.

It's a low percentage shot, to be sure, but it is also the only possible one. So, he goes for it and it works.

Blogger JACIII June 04, 2017 8:13 AM  

VD wrote:It's not luck. It's more the combination of a) the only possible move and b) skill. Each of those acts are intentional.
It's a low percentage shot, to be sure, but it is also the only possible one. So, he goes for it and it works.

Then it is astounding. To the ignorant observer it looks like two guys kicked the ball to just whoever they could find was open and the third went off like a boss.

This level of play is looking more and more to me like feet-only basketball.

Anonymous starr June 04, 2017 8:14 AM  

Cracking goal, both the shot and the lead up play... pity the result went against them

Anonymous Überdeplorable Psychedelic Cat Grass June 04, 2017 8:16 AM  

My buddy from Nicaragua and I watched the whole match. He's a die hard Real fan. We agreed if there's one guy that definitely earned his silver, it was Mandužić. That was the best goal by either side in the match.

Blogger Esmar Tuek June 04, 2017 8:17 AM  

It's much better than basketball, you don't score every time your team gets the ball

Blogger Ransom Smith June 04, 2017 8:21 AM  

He was better at Bayern than upper management would have accepted. I was sorry to see him leave.

Blogger JACIII June 04, 2017 8:25 AM  

Esmar Tuek wrote:It's much better than basketball, you don't score every time your team gets the ball

You are thinking pro basketball. I should have specified college basketball. Nobody scores every trip down the floor on the Big Blue Nation.

Blogger Duke Norfolk June 04, 2017 8:40 AM  

I played a bit as a youth, and thus have an appreciation for all of that, not just the score, as you pointed out.

Beautifully controlled. Just spectacular.

Anonymous Looking Glass June 04, 2017 8:53 AM  

Possibly the most amazing part is the ball is about 45m from the goal when it's lofted to the far-left side of the box. 5 touches, without the ball touching grass, that cover around 65m total distance before the ball is in the goal.

Unless you've played soccer (futbol) to at least a decent level, or played seriously as an adult, it's actually a fairly hard game to understand why things happen the way they do. The game relies, massively, on individual general skill. This, along with the low-up take cost to play, makes it a wonderful community sport. Which is why, if you don't have a rooting interest in the teams, it's not that great of a spectator sport.

It's especially interesting at the Professional (Club) level, since it's hard to explain how fast they can close distances. Hi-Def SloMo has really helped the sport look a lot better, as you simply can't see the angles the players are operating with at normal speed. It also helps appreciate just how much spin has to be placed on shots these days.

You see a lot more footage of shots on goal that just go flying off, hard, away from the goal these days. It's because the player is trying to put some hard spin or counter-rotation on the ball. The speed at which the ball has to travel to not be blocked by the keeper means it's far more likely to have massive lift under it. Thus the move to the modern "knuckleball" striking. You need the ball to "bite" and drop, otherwise your angle to the goal is extremely small and any semi-competent keeper is going to grab that.

The upswing is that it produces moments like in the video. That was the only shot opportunity that was actually available on that entire entry attempt. That's what a good, modern defense can do to your attack. How to get around it? Low-probability but pretty much impossible to defense shot attempts. (Relatedly, this is what makes Messi so insane. Guy can find the goal at a higher rate than anyone else, pretty much in history.)

Blogger VD June 04, 2017 8:57 AM  

The game relies, massively, on individual general skill.

The level of skill routinely displayed in even low-level games here can be breathtaking. You'll now see players flip the ball over their heads to themselves in almost every game, the sort of thing you didn't see professionals not named Pele doing 30 years ago.

Blogger VD June 04, 2017 9:01 AM  

That was the only shot opportunity that was actually available on that entire entry attempt.

Yeah, his other option was to pass it back to the player 15 meters behind him to take a 35-meter shot with the goalie in position. The bicycle was probably the higher-percentage shot there.

The key, I think, is that players have learned that they usually cannot beat a defender one-on-one. So, if someone is on them, they immediately pass the ball without even thinking about it, before the defender can challenge them for it, even if that requires a volley.

Anonymous Marvin Boggs June 04, 2017 9:02 AM  

As the saying goes, "getting old sucks, but it beats the alternative."

Anonymous Looking Glass June 04, 2017 10:04 AM  

@14 VD

It's quite interesting to compare against the NFL & NBA. There, you have guys that never touch the sport until about 16 being solid professionals. With futbol, now? If you not already on a National Team's radar by 12, you're going to have a hard time touching semi-pro level.

A lot of this is actually down to modern Sports Science. At the same age, the guys will be faster simply because we know how to train better. Do X rather than Y and, suddenly, the kid has significantly more endurance for the same amount of training. With the massive increase in salaries, suddenly wanting your kid to be a Professional, also, isn't unacceptable for most parents of "means". Once you start seeing real money put into the Youth leagues, the information travels fast. All of the training methods that the previous generational-level players natural figured out are available to anyone with some time or monetary investment.

The really interesting aspect is how similar it all is to Ice Hockey. Along with how much less important the Coach/Manager level becomes. While it's important in futbol, the impact is different. There's far less Grand Strategy and much more specific Tactical approach. (The difference between running plays and "running" being the play.)

@15 VD

Defense *always* has a 1-man advantage in Professional-level futbol. It's less winning 1-on-1 and more having to win 2 separate instances of 1-on-1. You can either do it with sheer speed, a break down in defense, or insane personal play. You also have about 1/2 a second of open space, even if you do beat 2 Men.

It creates a situation that causing the break downs is the most valuable play in the field. (Depending on how the currently favored defensive approach is, Counter-Attacking is normally the preferred way to create it.) This is the reason for all of the high-speed crosses. It produces 2nd-level attack angles that simply can't be defended if your attacker is faster, taller or in-front of the assigned defender.

The 5 goals from the Championship match bear this out.

1-0 Real: Counter-attack, Ronaldo gets a shot level with the penalty marker that he curves hard to the goal-keepers counter moving position. Still required to deflect a bit off a still-running defender to be sure to go in.

1-1 Juventus: Mandzukic finishes one of the prettiest exchanges you'll see. Still required a really low-chance shot that still had to kiss the cross bar to go in.

2-1 Real: Casemiro gets a supremely lucky deflection, causing the ball to shift speed & bite hard for the corner. That was a bad shot that went in.

3-1 Real: Intercepted pass leads to a deep run, ball is crossed it from the end-line into a sprinting Ronaldo who has an angle on the keeper. First goal for Real that wasn't deflected, though it only goes in with a brilliant touch from a legendary-level player.

4-1 Real: Asensio gets another hard cross in from the end-line.

Only Juventus' goal was with the Defense properly set. 3 of Real's goals were on a high-speed counter-attack, and the 4th came off the confusion after a blocked free kick. It's stuff like this that makes futbol a great highlight sport, though.

Blogger Dave June 04, 2017 10:14 AM  

After I was floored by virtue of blocking an attempted cross with my face, instead of rushing to my aid, my obviously concerned son shouted "you break it, you bought it" at the guilty party

Clever. He probably became accustomed to seeing your head used as a piñata from your sparring days.

Blogger pyrrhus June 04, 2017 11:32 AM  

Really wonderful play at the very highest level! I am sending this to my kids.

Blogger Lucas June 04, 2017 11:43 AM  

As a portuguese I rejoice with yet another cup for CR7. The best European player ever. Hands down.

Blogger Anthony June 04, 2017 5:14 PM  

I'm a very occasional fan, but I caught some of that game. Are my impressions correct?
Real Madrid did teamwork better than Juventus - better and more passing.

Juventus' players were slightly better on an individual level.

Real Madrid understood exactly how rough the referees would allow them to get away with. Juventus didn't.

Blogger RobertT June 04, 2017 5:19 PM  

As you age, stretching becomes more important. It used to bore me to tears. All I ever did was stretch the back of my legs for a moment before heading out for a run. But as I've gotten older I have worked a lot of stretching into my daily routing. I also work a lot of isometric stuff into my workouts.Steve Maxwell has some stretching and mobility stuff on youtube. His morning routine got me started on stretching.

Anonymous Rikko June 04, 2017 6:26 PM  

It was truly a game of 2 halfs. Juve I would argue were superior for the first 45 minute but they seemed to collapse as the game dragged on.

Horrible feeling for me as a Juvetino to have to experience the disappointment of another failed champions league campaign (1996 seems so far away).

Still feeling bummed by the loss actually.

My beloved Juve - always the brides maid, never the bride :(

Anonymous MendoScot June 04, 2017 7:43 PM  

Look how he broke the defense. The attack usually moves forward, but it's the surprise pass that gives the opportunity to the man who is already covered. He had the option of putting it back for a better chance, or taking the crazy shot.


Blogger Ransom Smith June 04, 2017 8:27 PM  

The best European player ever. Hands down.

*Cough* Beckenbauer *cough*

Anonymous Rikko June 04, 2017 9:08 PM  

I'll see your Beckenbauer and raise you a Paolo Maldini

Blogger Lucas June 04, 2017 11:40 PM  

Great player,but not as good as CR7.

Blogger Lucas June 04, 2017 11:41 PM  

Anothet great player but CR7 is better.

Anonymous SWB June 05, 2017 3:31 AM  

Johan Cruyff.

CR7 is the better athlete. Johan was the best football player.

Anonymous Rikko June 05, 2017 4:16 AM  

Hard to compare footballers from different eras but for me Maradona remains the greatest player of all time. I mean he almost singlehandedly won Argentina the world cup as well as pushing Napoli to win the league which for such a small club was no mean feat.

Anonymous Ryan ATL June 05, 2017 10:00 AM  

VD, Mandzukic got me thinking.... what's your ideal vision for what UEFA competitions should look like? Would you prefer a pre-Bosman structure/ruleset where each league could decide how many foreigners to allow on each roster / lineup? What would you think is best for the sport?

Anonymous Ryan ATL June 05, 2017 10:01 AM  

Sergio Ramos - love him as a player, but what a dirty a-hole

Blogger Lucas June 05, 2017 1:00 PM  

Another great European player but.....CR7 is better

Anonymous Ryan ATL June 05, 2017 2:44 PM  

Zidane is in the conversation of best European player. I won't pretend to know much about players before my lifetime.

Blogger Lucas June 05, 2017 4:15 PM  

Zidane is not European, if I recall correctly.

Blogger Lucas June 05, 2017 4:16 PM  

Zidane is not European, if I recall correctly.

Anonymous Ryan ATL June 05, 2017 6:39 PM  

Zidane was born and raised in France, lived his entire youth there. If you mean he isn't really French in other ways, than that's up to debate, but at least he's nominally "French" and by FIFA standards is as well.

Anonymous Rikko June 05, 2017 8:51 PM  

How many of you all are old enough to remember Michel Platini? Another giant in the history of European footballer... and a Juventus player to boot!

Blogger PayliTuzu June 05, 2017 10:40 PM  

Anothet great player but CR7 is betterAnd I Like So Much..
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Anonymous I was better at soccer than baseball, so I know. June 06, 2017 4:16 AM  

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Blogger smey valentine June 10, 2017 5:28 AM  

Beautiful goals in a very good match,thanks for sharing with us!

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