Tag Archives: European Championships

Remembering Greatness: Ricardo Carvalho

Between the early 00’s and mid 2010’s the manager who running football was none other than Jose Mourinho.

Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid all hosted the Portuguese gaffer, and at three of those clubs he made sure that he had the great Ricardo Carvalho with him marshalling the defence for him.

From a period of having flowing locks to essentially going bald, Carvalho was a standout defender wherever he went and always shone, yet he never seemed to get the full credit that he really deserved.

Coming through the FC Porto academy, Carvalho was well known for his excellent tackling and dominant aerial ability. Positionally he was always flawless and he always had leadership qualities that shone through in a team full of quality footballers.

After breaking through into the Porto first-team, he found himself third choice behind the legendary duo of Jorge Andrade and captain Jorge Costa. It wasn’t long until he took the place of the skipper though and formed a tremendous partnership at the heart of the defence as Porto came second in the league.

He lost his place when Mourinho first came to Porto, with Costa earning his place back after Andrade left for Deportivo and partnering Pedro Emmanuel. He soon earned his place back once more though and as Porto went on to win the UEFA Cup by beating Celtic 3-2 after extra-time. His performances were so good that he even earned the individual honours of Porto player of the year and Portuguese League Footballer of the year.

The following year was when Carvalho became a true household name. A regular starter now under Mourinho, he led Porto to a second consecutive Primeira Liga title but also to a stunning win in the UEFA Champions League tournament. During that season he featured in every game during the competition, including the 3-0 final win over Monaco.

His performances were enough to secure him a place in the team of the tournament and earn him a call up to the Portuguese national team for Euro 2004. Once again he was deemed first choice there too as the Seleccao made it to the final, only to be beaten in the final by Greece on home turf.

Carvalho started all six of Portugal’s games, reuniting with Andrade in defence, and he made it into the UEFA team of the tournament, while also finishing ninth in the Ballon d’Or voting for 2004 and being the only defender to finish in the top ten.

He earned himself a big money move to Chelsea that summer, following Mourinho to his next destination. It was there where he formed his most famous partnership alongside Mr. Chelsea, John Terry. Together they were the mainstays in a defence that conceded just 15 goals across the entire league campaign as they won the title, a record that still stands to this day.

The following season they conceded just 22 times as they lifted the title a second time the following year, with Carvalho once again a star. He went on to feature 210 times for the Blues, winning three Premier League titles and two League Cups during his six seasons before opting for a move to Real Madrid – who were managed by Mourinho.

Once again he stepped into the team as a level headed, dominant defender and formed a great partnership alongside Portuguese national team colleague Pepe. In his first season with the club he was indispensable as Madrid won the Copa Del Rey, featuring 48 times across all competitions. In his second year he was first-choice until picking up an injury that kept him out of action.

During that spell Sergio Ramos moved to centre-back, where he would go on to become one of the best ever, and Carvalho lost his place at Madrid from that point onwards. Los Blancos won La Liga in record-breaking fashion that year, before he eventually moved on to Monaco to see out his career.

But during his time in France, he is more remembered for making a return to the national team to win Euro 2016. He started all three group games before being dropped for the knockout stages and his experience and leadership were credited largely within the squad, as the country won their first ever major international honour, beating host nation France in the final in extra time.

A phenomenal defender in his prime he was the perfect foil for his partners. Intelligent and dripping with technique and finesse, Carvalho was also always strong enough physically to never be bullied. He had pace to win foot races, a picture perfect slide tackle and a will to win.

Without a doubt one of the best defenders of his generation, Carvalho will go down as one of his nations best ever and a legend at two different clubs. Remember his greatness.

Remembering Greatness: Oliver Kahn

During my lifetime, when you talk about the greatest goalkeepers to play the game it’s often the same handful of names that crop up in conversation.

Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer, Peter Schmeichel and Petr Cech in particular are the guys that tend to be brought up the most, but there are always a couple of names missing. In my eyes, none are more overlooked than the big German shot stopper Oliver Kahn.

A Bayern Munich legend, Kahn ensured his name was written in stone when he won every trophy possible with the Bavarian club but was also successful with his national team.

After starting his career with Karlsruher, Kahn earned himself a move to Bayern in 1994 for a then-record of around €2.5m. He was immediately installed as the starting goalkeeper after some great performances for his previous side, including helping the side to get through to a UEFA Cup semi-final after battering a Valencia side 7-0 during the tournament.

He suffered a cruciate ligament injury in his knee which saw him miss six months of action in the campaign but still managed to make 30 appearances for the club and earned himself a call up to the German national team for his debut.

His first trophy came at the end of his second season, as despite finishing second in the Bundesliga they were able to beat Bordeaux in the UEFA Cup final 5-1 on aggregate with Kahn keeping a clean sheet in the first leg.

His third campaign was mightily successful, as he won his first Bundesliga title with a string of top performances earning him 14 clean sheets and the goalkeeper of the year award. In between the two campaigns Kahn was called up the German national team as part of the squad that won Euro 96, although he made no appearances his mentality was praised by first choice goalkeeper Andreas Köpke for keeping him on his toes throughout.

Fantastic performances and standards continued with Bayern Munich as they won the title again in 98/99, while also reaching the UEFA Champions League final. During that European campaign, Kahn played in all 13 fixtures and conceded ten goals before the final which was famously lost because of two injury time Manchester United goals.

Kahn was famously distraught after the game, laying on the ground in tears surrounded by his defenders, but it was his famed mental strength that helped him to get back up again and continue to succeed in his career. Later that year he was named as the World’s Best Goalkeeper by the IFFHS.

He even managed to redeem himself just two seasons later when Bayern made it to another final, this time against Valencia. In a game decided by penalties during the game and after it, a 1-1 draw led to a shootout where Khan stood victorious by saving three Valencia penalties to win the game for his side.

Remembering his defeat in 99, the iconic image of Khan consoling a distraught Santiago Canizares while his teammates celebrated on the pitch to this day shows the magnitude of the man that the German was.

‘Der Titan’ perfectly summed up his style and persona too, as he won eight Bundesliga titles throughout his career and six DFB-Pokal cups to go with his Champions League title.

Oliver Kahn of Germany wins the adidas Golden Ball award during the 2002 FIFA World Player Gala at the Palacio de Congresos on 17th December 2002 in...

His aggressive approach demanded quality and focus at all time and Khan was well known for letting his defenders know his feelings if things didn’t go as they were supposed to. But it was that clamour for perfection that made him the first and only goalkeeper to be crowned UEFA’s Best Goalkeeper for four consecutive years.

His international career as a starter never quite hit the heights of winning a tournament, but he was still absolutely influential in the success Germany did have.

At the 2002 World Cup, Khan was captain and a starter in every game conceding just one goal en route to the final. Coming up against R9’s Brazil, Kahn demanded to play in the final despite having torn ligaments in his finger. His error led to Ronaldo’s opening goal, as he fumbled a Rivaldo shot into the striker’s path as Brazil won the final 2-0.

Despite that, Kahn refused to blame the injury and his performances earned him the honour of being the first and only goalkeeper in history to win the Golden Ball – ahead of Ronaldo. In 2001 and 2002 he finished in third place of the Ballon d’Or too and was named in the FIFA 100 list by Pele back in 2004, such was his standing in the game.

Tremendous reflexes, great power, a great throw to start counter-attacks, unrivalled leadership and mentality and one of the most commanding goalkeepers of all-time. The next time there is a conversation about the best goalkeepers ever, remember Oliver Kahn’s greatness.

Portugal: Don’t Fear The Big Boys Anymore – You’re One Of Them

For years and years, Portugal have been considered to be in the second tier of international football.

The giants like France, Germany, Brazil and Argentina have always been considered the better teams at international level, with the best talent always seemingly having one of those passports to their name.

Portugal have been grouped with the likes of England and Holland as perennial under-achievers despite having plenty of talent in their squad. It’s all changed now though.

After consecutive 0-0 draws against France and Spain, it may seem like a weird conclusion to come to. But this is the final stretch of a long process that has seen Portugal win the last two competitive tournaments they have been a part of – including the European Championships in 2016.

Plenty of fans and critics like to point out that Portugal won just one of their games in that entire tournament during the initial 90 minutes, the 2-0 semi-final win over Wales. What they fail to mention is they didn’t lose any games during the tournament. Fernando Santos has done a fantastic job of making Portugal almost impenetrable defensively.

Since losing to Uruguay in the World Cup Round of 16 back in 2018, Portugal have only lost one game in all competitions – friendlies included. They’ve beaten Italy, Holland, Serbia, Croatia, and Sweden in that time, while also drawing against France, Spain and Croatia too.

Luxembourg v Portugal - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier : News Photo

They’ve also managed to get a squad together which is arguably among the top 3 in the world in terms of pure talent. Defensively, Rui Patricio patrols a backline expertly well as a man with his experience should. In front of him, Pepe is arguably one of the most underrated defenders of all-time ad next to him is an undeniable prospect in Ruben Dias. At full-back the Selecçao have incredible depth with the likes of Ricardo Pereira, João Cancelo, Nelson Semedo and Raphael Guerreiro in the current group while youngsters like Nuno Mendes are coming through too.

In midfield they arguably have the deepest pool of options outside of the French. Danilo Pereira and William Carvalho provide a solid base to build from, with a wide passing range to go with their defensive capabilities. Both men have expert positioning and are great at reading the game, which allows the attacking players to flourish. Other options in the deeper positions include João Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes and Renato Sanches too.

In the more attacking midfield positions the depth continues. In addition to guaranteed starters Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes, Portugal’s options include Gonçalo Guedes, Trinçao, Diogo Jota and Rafa Silva for different occasions.

Portugal’s weakest position is arguably in centre forward and yet they still have the greatest goalscorer in modern football history. Cristiano Ronaldo has moved away from the left-wing position in recent years to a more central role and he’s flourished. During Sky’s broadcast of the draw with France they revealed a stunning stat. If you took all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals for Portugal score prior to his 30th birthday, he would still be their all-time top goalscorer with 49 goals. Alongside him, young prospect João Felix is making a name for himself while Andre Silva provides a reliable goal threat in the squad too.

With Santos looking to pair Felix and Ronaldo together going forward, Portugal’s strongest XI is arguably one of the best in world football right now. With a manager and captain who believe in winning by any means necessary too, they need fans to start believing now. Previously against the top sides, Portugal would hang back and defend and look to counter-attack with Ronaldo leading the charge but these last two performances have shown progression; Portugal can go toe-to-toe with the best.

It’s time for Portugal to stop worrying about the prospect of facing the big boys at tournaments now – they’re one of them.

Football Quiz #3

Instead of a generally themed quiz based on the current happenings in the world of football, I decided to test the readers’ knowledge.

I’ve put together a 20 question quiz on all things football. Facts, stats and general trivia from way back when and the present day to see just how much you know about football.

Let me know what you get and be sure to share it with all your friends.