The Tournament of Legends

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Most Famous Mexican Soccer Players

Mexican soccer was always known for producing quality players and it's actually quite surprising that their best national team record is reaching the quarter-finals of a World Cup (on two occasions, 1970 and 1986, both of these World Cups being organized by Mexico). However, the Mexican national side has always been a constant presence in final tournaments and it's regarded as a tough nut to crack, despite their lack of silverware. Let's take a short look at some of the players that made Mexico the strong soccer power that it is today.

Antonio Carbajal

Nicknamed "El Cinco Copas", or "Five Cups", Antonio Carbajal was the first player to ever participate in 5 World Cups with his national team and has only been equaled in 1998, by German legend Lothar Matthaus. Carbajal played for Mexico in all the 5 World Cups that took place between 1950 and 1966.

Hugo Sanchez

Hugo Sanchez was one of the first Mexico soccer players to play in Europe at the highest level. He was an iconic player for Real Madrid between 1985 and 1992; 7 years in which he scored no less than 253 goals in 283 matches, a goal/match ratio that can hardly be rivaled.

He also played for the Mexico national team on 60 occasions, scoring 29 goals and being an important player in the 1986 World Cup held by Mexico, in which his team managed to equal the quarter-final performance obtained initially in 1970. Hugo Sanchez is currently the manager and coach of the Mexican national squad.

Jared Borgetti

Borgetti was of Italian and Mexican descent and as a striker, he combined the flair and power of Italian soccer with the passion and inventively of Mexican soccer. Although he is still an active soccer player at age 34, he spent most of his time playing in the Mexican league, with 7 years for Santos Laguna, a period of time in which he managed to score close to 200 goals in 300 matches.

But Borgetti's goalscoring run doesn't stop here, as he has also managed to come on top of the Mexican national side's all time score sheet, with 43 goals in 87 matches. Currently, Borgetti is playing for Cruz Azul and although he decided to retire from the Mexican national side for the upcoming World Cup, he stated that he would love to play for his country one last time, during the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.

Claudio Suarez

Unlike many other Mexican soccer players that get to celebrate New Years with a completely new club on their payroll, Claudio Suarez has only gone through 4 teams throughout his entire career: UNAM Pumas (1989-1996), Chivas de Guadalajara (1996-1999), UANL Tigres (1999-2005) and Chivas USA (2006). He made a strong impression for all of these clubs and many consider him one of the best Mexican defenders to have played for his country.

Although an extraordinary defender is currently contesting this title away from Claudio Suarez, namely Rafael Marquez of Barcelona, there's one title that will hardly be touched by anyone for a long time: Claudio Suarez currently holds the record for international caps with the Mexican national team, with an amazing 178 appearances.

Rafael Marquez

Rafael Marquez is probably the best-known Mexican soccer player of today, being one of the most important members of Spanish side FC Barcelona. Marquez' ability to play as a central or right defender as well as a defensive midfielder earned him the aura of a "handyman", being able to play wherever his coach would need him the most.

However, Marquez has recently steadied down as a central defender, playing on this position for the Mexican national side as well as for FC Barcelona in the last years. Age 28, Rafael Marquez is the captain of the Mexican national squad and is already being considered one of the best players in the country's history, next to legendary names such as Hugo Sanchez or Claudio Suarez.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barcelona's Rivalry with Real Madrid

As long as there have been sport teams, there have been rivalries. Whether it's the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox or the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, the two rival teams inevitably end up meeting again and again, forming an ongoing heated rivalry that delights fans of the sport. One such rivalry is between Spanish football teams FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

FC Barcelona (also known as Barça by its fans) and Real Madrid are two of the earliest Spanish football teams, both forming in the 1890s. From the start, the two teams were seen as representatives of two rival regions of Spain, the ancient kingdoms of Castile and Catalonia. Both teams were part of La Liga, a Spanish football league and a rivalry that went far beyond football quickly took root.

It was during and after the Spanish Civil War that the rivalry took on more political overtones. Dictator Francisco Franco banned all peripheral languages, such as Catalan, the language of Barcelona. Catalonia had long been associated with more progressive fashions and political ideas, such as democracy--which was the diametric opposite of Franco's dictatorial regime. FC Barcelona suffered as a result of being a part of the Catalonian culture. Real Madrid, on the other hand, was seen by many Spaniards (and Catalonians in particular) as the "establishment" club. Though Franco seemed to favor Real Madrid, members of both teams suffered under his regime.


Real Madrid 4 - Barcelona 1 - 7th may 2008


The fierce rivalry continued into the 1950s when both clubs sought to sign Alfredo Di Stefano to play for them. Real Madrid eventually won out and Alfredo Di Stefano went on to lead them to many wins. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid went head-to-head twice at the European Cup in the 1960s, with Real Madrid winning one and FC Barcelona winning the other. The two teams clashed once again over a player in 2000 when Luis Figo left FC Barcelona and signed with Real Madrid. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid competed against each other again in the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2002, with Real Madrid getting the win. The Spanish media dubbed the match "The Match of the Century".


Ronaldinho's 3rd amazing goal (Real madrid-Barcelona) 2005/06

In the mid-2000s, the rivalry ascended to further heights when it acquired its own name, El Clasico. The term El Clasico was traditionally assigned to any South American football rivalry, but the growth of football in the Americas coupled with these two great teams' rivalry led to the coining of the term as applied to FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. This was mostly a marketing scheme communicated via GolTV, an all-football satellite channel, but the term has been embraced by fans worldwide.

El Clasico shows no signs of slowing. To this very day, the two teams inevitably seek each other out on the field to find out who is the best team in Spain. Sometimes FC Barcelona wins and sometimes Real Madrid wins, but ultimately football fans worldwide are the ones who win whenever these two giants meet on the field.