Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Arsenal Limp Through, But Are Through Nonetheless

Porto 0-0 Arsenal.
Despite claiming that Arsenal were going to Porto to win, Arsene clearly played for a draw, going with 4-5-1 with Adebayor alone up front. It nearly bit him in the ass, as Arsenal were outshot and outplayed. Porto had two off the post, and as late as the 77th minute in the other match CSKA Moscow were up 2-1 on Hamburg, so Arsenal had very little room for error. Hamburg came back late to beat CSKA Moscow 3-2, rendering the Porto-Arsenal meaningless except for which team would finish first & second in the group. In the last 10 minutes both teams basically said fuck it and didn't even really try to go forward, and that was that.

Not pretty, but whatever, they are through to the final 16. And they actually finished as group winners, although I think it might have been better if they had actually finished 2nd as far as the round of 16 draw is concerned - more on that later.

Man of the match was easily and without question Porto left winger Quaresma, who ran the Arsenal defense ragged and hit the woodwork twice. His performance was the only thing worth watching in this match, unless you were at the pub where I watched the match, and then like me, you would have not been able to take your eyes off of our beautiful waitress who I am now completely in love with (unless of course you are a straight woman or a gay man, and then she too would have been as boring as the match).

ManUtd gave all the haters hope by falling behind 0-1 to Benfica (what an amazing strike by the Benfica dude), and for a few moments we were all envisioning ManUtd crashing out at the hands of Benfica for the 2nd year in a row. But it was not to be - they stormed back and won 3-1, so they are through as group winners as well.

In fact, all 4 English teams not only qualified for the knockout stage but won their groups as well.

Here is the breakdown of teams that qualified. The draw for the knockout stage is set for December 15th, and there are 3 things to keep in mind for the round of 16 draw: (1) a team cannot be drawn against the other team from its group (2) a team cannot be drawn against another team from the same country (3) 1st place teams cannot be drawn against other 1st place teams, only 2nd place teams, and obviously vicey versey for 2nd place teams. (after the round of 16 there is another draw for the quarterfinals that is truly blind - no such restrictions).

1A Chel$ea (England)
2A Barcelona (Spain)

1B Bayern Munich (Germany)
2B Inter Milan (Italy)

1C Liverpool (England)
2C PSV Eindhoven (Holland)

1D Valencia (Spain)
2D Roma (Italy)

1E Lyon (France)
2E Real Madrid (Spain)

1F Manchester United (England)
2F Celtic (Scotland)

1G Arsenal (England)
2G Porto (Portugal)

1H AC Milan (Italy)
2H Lille (France)

So if you are Arsenal, or any other group winner, there are some pretty damn good teams that went through as 2 seeds, starting with defending champions and La Liga leaders Barcelona, Serie A leaders Inter Milan, Dutch league leaders PSV Eindhoven, and of course Real Madrid. All of the 1st place teams will be hoping that they draw Lille. Something tells me that Chel$ea will draw them and Arsenal will draw Barcelona, but we'll have to wait until the 15th to see how it all shakes out.

Finally, an early prediction: Werder Bremen will win the UEFA Cup (the 3rd place finishers in the CL group stage drop into the UEFA cup, which is to the CL what the NIT basketball tournament is to the NCAA basketball tournament).


moin said...

Gotta love the last bit of the Porto-Arsenal match when both teams stopped trying.

Who cares about Joga Bonito if cynicism can make you millions?

By the way, the way Barca played the first 20 minutes of the Werder match is damn scary. Makes you wonder why they don't play that way all the time. Maybe they are getting arrogant like Brazil, thinking they can turn it on whenever needed.

Kanu said...

Agreed on all points, although it helps when Werder Bremen sleepwalk through said 20 minutes.