By Jose M. Romero
For Fox Deportes
“El Clasico” delivers fans quality soccer, atmosphere
Some time ago I learned that “El Super Clasico” was the nickname given to the matches between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. I believe a distinction of some sort has been made since, as that moniker should be reserved for Boca Juniors vs. River Plate.
There is also “El Super Clasico Mexicano” between Chivas Guadalajara and Club America. But there is only one true “Clasico,” Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona, in the world of soccer, and it took place Saturday at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.
I never used to care much about Spain or its soccer teams. To me, Spain and colonialism were synonymous. It was a Chicano history thing.
But I have seen more parts of the world. I have been to Europe and become a huge soccer fan, and now I can put aside my personal politics and historical perspective and just watch the beauty of the game. And Saturday’s game was top-notch, as good as it gets and entertaining.
The millennium has been dominated by the two richest teams in Spain, FCB and Real Madrid. Only one other team has won a Liga BBVA championship since 2000, and Barcelona has a three-year title streak that will more than likely end this season, with Real Madrid on the cusp of its first championship since 2008.
In a way, it’s kind of unfair. The rich get richer and better and stronger, the teams with less money jockey for second or third place and below in hopes of making the Champions League or Europa League tournament. But soccer is big-money business in Europe and every country has its top-flight clubs.
Both clubs are full of big international names in the game. There is the amazing Lionel Messi, the diminutive Argentinean who at 24 is the three-time world football player of year. There is Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, who could dethrone Messi this year. And a supporting cast for both teams full of players who won the 2010 World Cup for Spain and starred for other nations.
The game on Saturday was a clinic. In the rain. Teams can only wish they could play so well and provide such up-and-down excitement in dry weather, and Real Madrid locked up Messi on defense. He was pretty much a non-factor.
The goals were exhilarating. The first, from Real Madrid, came on a corner kick that was deflected into the box, where Sami Khedira got a good foot on the ball and blasted it into the net at close range. FCB defender Carles Puyol was there to clear the ball, but he hesitated and was beaten.
Barcelona should have tied the score, but Xavi’s open shot in the 27 minute missed wide right. FCB controlled much of the possession of the game but Real Madrid played a deliberate pace with sudden bursts of higher tempo that worked well.
After Alexis Sanchez scored the equalizer in the second half, Ronaldo broke into the clear and got a perfect pass from Mesut Ozil and finished on the run to give Madrid the lead for good. Ronaldo’s reaction? Jogging toward a corner pumping his hand down, telling the Barcelona faithful to simmer down.
Just as good a goal celebration as any dance or planned move, in my mind.
It was like watching an NBA playoff game, and seeing the visiting team’s star hit a big shot late in the game to silence the home crowd. Except the whole world was watching El Clasico.