¡Reyes de Europa!

If there’s any word to describe the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, it would be: INTENSE. It wasn’t the most beautiful of games, but it had that mounting tension that every final should have from the moment the first whistle blew.

An error from Iker Casillas allowed Godin to score in the 36th minute, and in the dying minutes of regulation time, that’s when you start to think, “Surely, we did not build up for La Decima with just this?” Atleti were too good in closing down spaces, with the midfield unable to supply the balls, and BBC largely shut down.

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But faith will bring us La Decima. In the form of a Sergio Ramos header in the 93rd minute.

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What a season it has been for Sergio Ramos. Undoubtedly his best yet. Undoubtedly his most important header.

Mucho animo, as they would say. It was as if he pumped life back into this Real Madrid team, who knew momentum swung their way in extra time.

Then the goals came. From Bale, from Marcelo, and icing on top of the cake, a cleanly scored penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo.

At last, La Decima is ours. What an incredible feeling. I’ll be telling my grandkids one day that I was able to witness for myself a portion of Real Madrid’s journey to their 10th European Cup.

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Rallying the La Roja faithful in time for WC 2014

Maldita Nerea’s “Buena Energia” (Good Energy—sounds something like Paul Hewitt would say)/”Yo Te Seguiré” (I will Follow You) is my new LSS. They’ve got Iker, Xavi, Diego Costa, Jordi Alba, and Cesar Azpilicueta on the video. It is also quite remarkable for the sole fact that Iker does not have a sense of rhythm.

Here’s a TVC from Cruzcampo, which asks for the “hearts”/escudos of the La Roja shirt. Even if it’s in Spanish, you can figure out pretty much what they will do with those collected—form a giant heart to be sent to the NT in Brazil. Oh, and mad props for Sergio Ramos’ subtle acting skills.

My favorite has got to be the Movistar TVC. Basically, it asks the question, “How do you motivate the stars who have won everything?” The simple answer: make them wear disguises and put them in another’s shoes and make them experience the effort put in by different people in different fields. Andres Iniesta is sent to the kitchens to peel potatoes. Juanfran and Santi Cazorla are sent to work as gardeners. Pepe Reina is a pre-school teacher. Xabi Alonso is a nurse in a home for the elderly.

Cannes-worthy, I think.

We’re going to Lisbon!

The German Theory still holds. On their way to capturing the Champions League trophy, Real Madrid had to beat at least one Germany team. Going back into the not-so-distant future, the men in white under Jose Mourinho were eliminated by Bayern Munich (ah, the ghosts of botched penalties) and Borussia Dortmund.

It’s funny how scripts in football just always manage to pit you against your biggest demons. It could be Murphy’s Law in place or it could just be a way to acquit yourself. For Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, it had to be the latter. Both men scored two goals apiece against Bayern Munich—acquitting themselves nicely of the botched penalties from two years back—and more importantly, booking a ticket for Real Madrid to the Champions League final in Lisbon.

Guess what? Real Madrid had to beat Schalke, Dortmund, and Bayern on the road to the final.

It may be 1/2 the destiny waiting to unfold. After all, the formidable opponent is a hungry, attacking Atletico Madrid side. Ah, as my friend Chica remarked, todos los campeones estan hecho en Madrid. There’s a part of me that would have wanted Chelsea to be in the final, if only for the drama and mind games that will ensue, but parked buses never make for great finals. Besides, all there is to it will just be the football within 90 minutes of play in the Portuguese capital.

In any case, it was a Sergio Ramos Celebration Day yesterday. Two headers merit two crazy football fans in this corner of the world to proudly don their Sergio Ramos shirts.

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Oh, and this was also a glorious post-match photo, in all its off-centered glory.

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The only downside? Xabi will miss the final. He has been on yellow card alert prior to the 2nd leg of the semifinal, and unfortunately, he got booked in the game. Darn it, nine years after Istanbul, and he misses out on Lisbon.

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Just give Sergio Ramos a hug.

Real Madrid’s remontada campaign fell short of one goal as the men in white lost 4-3 on aggregate in their semifinal match against Borussia Dortmund (hey, I like this team—I’d prefer them to win the Champions League versus whichever FCB team they’ll face in the final!). The vuelta of the semifinals saw a hungry Madrid team, attacking relentlessly in the first and last 15 minutes of the match… which may have well been the reason why they fell short.

Moreover, props to Jurgen Klopp’s men for effectively stifling Xabi Alonso—now you know who is key to Real Madrid’s victories apart from Cristiano Ronaldo. Apart from these two, Mesut Ozil was also largely ineffective. That said, you’ve got the likes of Luka Modric, Michael Essien, and Sergio Ramos stepping up.

Poor Sergio was inconsolable after. All I can say is, one year after being the butt of jokes for that missed penalty that saw Madrid bow out to Bayern Munich, he has been the hero of sorts, scoring a late second goal for Madrid. Throw at him all the yellow and red cards, but I’m damn proud that he’s stepped up in the captain’s role.

It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster ride, and La Decima will have to wait for another year. In the meantime, here’s to the Copa del Rey final.

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Well, this happened.

If this doesn’t motivate Fernando Torres to get back in fighting form for a spot in the Spanish National Team, then I don’t know what will.

Feliz cumpleaños, El Niño!

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Decimating Barcelona.

Amidst the crazy week that was, I found time to catch the Copa del Rey semifinal between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The ida of this match up saw both teams draw 1-1 at the Bernabeu, and the vuelta had both teams playing not just for a spot at the final, but for pride and then some.

I suppose waking up at 4 a .m. was well worth it, when the final score at Camp Nou read 1-3, in favor of Madrid. The goals came from a Cristiano Ronaldo brace (one from the penalty spot and one cleanly slotting it in after Pinto blocked Angel DiMaria’s shot, only to bounce straight to our #7) and a powerful header from Raphael Varane—this kid is definitely Madrid’s future: a rock in defense, containing Leo Messi, and powerful in front of the goal. Jordi Alba netted for Barcelona at the 89th minute, which was hardly any consolation.

One other thing to note about this match: Madrid’s defense showed up. If he had played like this all the time, then there should not have been a gaping difference in points between these rivals.

As for Real Madrid, this win should boost the team’s confidence coming into the Liga match with Barcelona tonight at the Bernabeu, and more importantly, to get some much needed goals when they face Manchester United at Old Trafford next week.

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As an added treat, here’s the video on the re-opening of the Adidas store at the Bernabeu. Xabi the Actor. Hehe.

And here’s a Nivea Men ad, starring Sergio Ramos in a leading role, and Marcelo, Gonzalo Higuain, and Alvaro Arbeloa in supporting roles.

 

Quite an awesome football week!

This week is one for the books when it comes to football, simply because there’s just too many of the awesome to report on.

One. Steven Gerrard reached 100 caps for England. Here he is with 100 school kids, posing for photos. Too adorable.

Two. Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t just score a world-class goal. It was out of this world. Proof:

Three. Spain thrashed Panama, and we have Sergio Ramos contributing to the goalscoring thanks to this awesome free kick. Just a few more attempts, and mi hombre is on his way of becoming a free kick specialist!

Four. The Azkals won over the Lions! Quite an inspired second half from the boys—and boy, oh boy, Ed Sacapaño was just one huge wall against Singapore! My thoughts on it here. (P.S. No more drama and politicking please in the NT—time to have a win-at-all-cost mentality!)

Five. Liverpool beat Wigan at Anfield 3-0, thanks to a Luis Suarez brace and a Jose Enrique goal. Gotta love the Suarez-Sterling partnership, and Jose Enrique finally at his best. Now this is the Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers that I’ve been waiting to see! (Also, Everton, Chelsea, and Manchester United lost this weekend—what joy!)

Six. Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao (I do like this Basque team though), 5-1, anchored by inspired performances from Karim Benzema and Mesut Özil.

Sergio Ramos in Men’s Health

Here’s the swashbuckling Sergio Ramos in his denims and underpants on the cover of Men’s Health in Spain. Really, I think they got the wrong publication for The Ramos to grace. This photo shoot reads more like Playgirl—after all, do the men of Spain aspire to be Sexio? I don’t think so.

Not exactly how I imagined La Liga to start either.

Real Madrid opened its title defense to a disappointing draw with Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu. Apart from Gonzalo Higuain’s early goal at the 10th minute of the game, the men in white were frustrated in finding the back of the net, and that could be credited to Valencia’s defense and the woodwork.

Perhaps what is more disconcerting are the injuries sustained in this game. Sofiane Feighouli’s studs found Sergio Ramos’ face (oh no, not the face!), while Iker Casillas and Pepe collided during a set play that led to Valencia’s equalizer by Jonas. Pepe had to be substituted in the second half and rushed to the hospital, while there was just something so unsettling when Iker is just stone-faced and rubbing the side of his head.

And then there’s the Supercopa.

Truth be told, I’m not yet ready from the crazies that come with another Clasico match. Barcelona is definitely riding high on the momentum of blasting Real Sociedad in their Liga campaign. Truth be told, I’d rather Real Madrid focus on the league and succumb into the histrionics that a Clasico brings about.

Things are bound to get even more exciting this week.

Hot and bandaged. I don’t even miss the long hair. Not one bit. Not at all.