11.11.11: 11 Football Matches, Teams and Players to Watch

Posted: November 11, 2011 in EURO 2012, Football Curiosities, Football Leisure, German National Team, Men's Team, UEFA, World Football

November 11, 2011 means different things to different people. To some, it signifies the Cosmic Portal Transit Date (hop aboard the train of ‘life’s true happiness’), others observe it as World Day of Interconnectedness (at 11AM be nice to and ‘connect’ with anyone and everyone), while others celebrate Nigel Tufnel Day, the fictional rocker from the world’s loudest band Spinal Tap, who loves to turn his amps up to 11 when he needs that “extra push over the cliff.”

To me, November 11 means two things; a great excuse for a delicious roasted goose dinner to celebrate The Feast of St. Martin (aka St. Martin’s day) and the chance to witness some of the most intriguing football fixtures spanning international friendlies, EURO2012 play-off qualifiers and 2014 World Cup (WC) qualifiers. Since this is a football and not a food blog, I’ll focus on the 11 matches, teams and players bound to make an impact on this historic day. If you are keeping count, Friday will feature 4 Euro qualifiers,  13 international friendlies, and a whopping 35 WC qualifiers played across 4 continents.

[11] Colombia vs. Venezuela (WC2014 qualifier): Colombian football has always intrigued me and I have always rooted for the traditional underdogs who’s last WC appearance dates back to 1998.

  1.  While the likes of Higuita and Valderrama are long gone, new phenoms include forwards such as Radamel Falcao and  Hugo Rodallega. Speaking of underdogs, Venezuela has never qualified for a world cup, and until its 2011 Copa America semi-final finish, has never finished better than 5th in any tournament. With a recent WC-qualifier win over the mighty Argentinians, this match should prove wide open, but in the end Venezuela will come up short by 1:2.

    Bad hair was a trademark of this Colombian football legend


[10] Republic of Ireland: ‘The luck of the Irish’ EURO2012 play-off draw saw the team from the Emerald Isle paired up against Estonia, by far the easiest (at least on paper) of the four play-off match-ups. After being cheated out of a World Cup South Africa spot based on Thierry Henry’s now infamous ‘hand of god’,  the footballing world is ready to see Ireland return to the world stage. With the Euro Championship in 1988 being their only appearance, colorful coach Giovanni Trapattoni and captain Robbie Keane are determined to a new page to the history books. I predict a 3:1 goal spread on aggregate across the two Estonia matches on the 11th and 15th.

[9] France vs. USA:  As U.S. soccer historian and avid soccer film collector Dave Wasser pointed out to me, the last encounter of these two was 1979, a 3:0 cake walk for France. Honestly, I don’t know if the U.S. is any better off than 32 years ago but at least ESPN2 found it worthy enough to broadcast. With all cynicism aside, it will be interesting to see how Juergen Klinsmann preps his men for the battle over frog legs. Thanks to Dave, here are a few clips from the 1979 encounter.

Keane is still Ireland's 'King of the World'

[8] Robbie Keane: The Irish National Team captain has made a recent move to LA but is still considered the ‘difference maker’ for The Boys in Green and their top international goal scorer with 51. With the LA Galaxy’s November 20th MLS Cup Final approaching, Keane will have to log more than 10,000 miles to compete in both Euro playoffs and the MLS match over the next 9 days. We’ll see how much juice is left in the tank by the time 2oth rolls around.

[7] Turkey vs. Croatia: I thought Turkey would have a much easier go of it in qualifying for EURO2012. While they did not stand much of a chance to top their qualifying group vs. the Germans, the talent-heavy side led by the iconic Dutch master Guus Hiddick has looked very ordinary and now faces Croatia in the 2 game play-off. Turkey might be the home side for the first leg match, but without Nuri Sahin they could well find themselves dominated by Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric. Also look for some fireworks from Croatian and Bayern striker Olic as he looks to rebound from a slew of nagging injuries. I see Turkey finally getting its act together and claiming the EURO spot with a 2:1 aggregate victory over Croatia.

Klinsman scored 47 goals in 108 appearances for his country

[6] Juergen Klinsmann: I love this guy; love what he achieved as a player, love how he resurrected German soccer and made the entire country look like heroes in 2006, love that he made Jogi Loew a household name (well almost) and love the fact we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the US since his national team coaching appointment.I realize he’s already under fire for not winning much as U.S. coach thus far, but let’s look at France as the turning point. He’s taking his time, taking chances and believing in talented youth, much like he did with David Odonkor in 2006 when he shocked German football ‘experts’ with the speedsters’ world cup squad nomination. Go Klinsi go and take 4 points from the next two matches with France and Slovenia

[5] England vs. Spain: I am skipping ahead to Saturday’s clash of the Titans but would be remiss if I did not mention this classic match-up (12:15pm Eastern, Live on Fox Soccer) and the bragging rights a stake. While this might just be another friendly on paper, the two camps are taking matter seriously with England skipper Fabio Capello truly taking one for the team by missing his youngest son’s wedding also scheduled for Saturday. On the footballing side, I see England struggling to keep up with Spain’s high-powered offense and second to none team play. Spain 2, England 0.

Phillip Lahm sport's his country's new EURO2012 Home kit

[4] Ukraine vs. Germany: Germany can break its curse of loosing end-of-the-year international match by upending Ukraine in Kiev tonight (live on ESPN3.com at 2:45PM Eastern).  While this will be a cold, maybe even close to zero degree affair, and stars like Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Neuer and Klose are inactive, ‘Die Mannschaft’ surely realizes the symbolism of playing in Kiev’s newly renovated Olympic Stadium and host of next summer’s EURo Final on July 1 (233 days and counting). Other match notables include Jogi Loew’s decision to feature the Oezil Goetze midfield duo (a first) and the DFB (German Soccer Federation) will unveil Germany’s EURO2012 kit.

[3] Mario Goetze: “Wir sind Deutschland” (we are German). Jung, dynamisch und erfolgreich (young, dynamic and succesful).” Dortmund’s Super Mario 2.0 is all that is good with German football … the domestic leagues are gaining international respect and pulling in record revenues; the German’farm system’ is sophisticated and extremely well-funded and ‘harvesting’ one bumper crop after the next (Mueller-Boateng-Reuss-Schuerle-Kroos-Pedersen-Goetze …); and the national team is winning (record EURO qualifying stats, solid friendly victory over Brazil this summer).

[2] Luka Modric: The Croatian midfielder and Spurs star was the most talked about English Premier League transfer that did not happen during the July-August transfer window. Modrić was heavily pursued by cross-town rivals, Chelsea who made an offer of £40 million ( £25 more than they paid for him) which was later rejected. He is a midfield marvel and was once dubbed the ‘Croatian Cruyff’ and at 26 has yet to reach his full superstar potential.

[1] Bosnia vs. Portugal: Bosnia-Herzegovina has a score to settle with Portugal after the Iberians edged the Balkan nation to a place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after winning the WC qualification play-offs. While Portugal boasts the more impressive roster led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Pepe, Bosnia’s 25 year old striker Edin Dzeko is currently in cracking form with Manchester City so maybe he can single handily carry his squad to Ukraine & Poland. I think this will be the upset match-up and Bosnia will outlast Portugal 3:2 on aggregate after the return leg on November 15th.

Portugal celebrates after securing a 2010 World Cup birth in a tense play-off with Bosnia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, to all the players and teams today competing for glory, pride, respect or honor, channel your inner Nigel Tufnel and remember to turn your amps up to 11 (on11.11) when that “extra push over the cliff” is required.

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