World Soccer Leagues in Full Swing

Radoslav Ivanov

The new soccer season has hardly started, but we have already seen so many exciting games that it is hard to imagine what a wild season might ensue in the coming months. To give you a brief preview of this article: all the major leagues have gone under way, we saw the first round of the Champions League, and we also saw some inspiring games in the World Cup qualifiers in the European zone.

The most interesting Championship during the past few years has definitely been England’s. This year will be no different, as the best teams have all kept their key players. Furthermore, we have a new big-money team that can possibly confront the big four: Manchester City. It is City who broke the British record for the most expensive transfer after buying Robinho for ?32.5 million from Real Madrid just hours before the end of the transfer window. Their new Arab presidents said they will not spare their money in order to buy any player the team might need in order to win big cups. It was Manchester United, however, that made the most impressive signing of the summer by getting Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham minutes before the end of the transfer window. Even though Berba, as his fans call him, has not scored yet in his first three appearances on the Red Devils’ squad, manager Sir Alex Ferguson keeps using him and tells everybody to be patient with the new Bulgarian star. So, the first five days of the Premier League are now gone and, except for the surprisingly good start of Hull City, it is again turning into a battle between the four usual suspects: Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and United.

The other major leagues have also seen some games already, and some trends are beginning to appear. Barcelona, after a horrible season last year, is off to a slow start in La Liga, but new coach Guardiola is optimistic for the team’s future, while the defending champion Real Madrid have played some solid games so far. In France, Lyon has taken the lead for yet another year, and it looks like they will add one more championship title to make it eight in a row. The German Bundesliga is promising to be very competitive, as we saw favorites Bayern Munich, with new manager Jurgen Klinsmann, lose 5-2 to Werder Bremen on their own ground. Last, but not least, the Italian Serie A is going to be more balanced than ever before in the last 20 years. Big names Milan and Juventus are back on stage, and Inter signed Jose Mourinho in the hope of finally winning the Champions League, while Lazio, Fiorentina and Rome will all fight for a place in top four and hope for something even bigger in the process.

In addition to the national leagues, we also saw the first round of the Champions League two weeks ago. There were a few very big surprises, such as Roma losing to Romanian debutants CFR Cluj in Rome. Moreover, Manchester United struggled against Villarreal in Spain, and the game ended with a goalless draw. Real Madrid, on the other hand, had no trouble disposing of another rookie, BATE Borisov of Belarus, but only scored two goals in its opening game. Another favorite, the team of Liverpool, made an impressive start after beating Olympic Marseille in France, while Atletico Madrid crushed PSV Eindhoven 3-0 in Holland in the other game in this fascinating group. Other big names did not have any problems beating their opponents with Chelsea, Juventus and Inter winning three points against Bordeaux, Zenit and Panathinaikos, respectively.

However important a player’s role in a club may be, his first priority should always be his country’s squad. This is one of FIFA’s major guidelines, and it is certainly true in the eyes of fans. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that World Cup qualifiers are one of the major events this autumn. The first two rounds have already passed, and it is obvious that no country can consider its place in South Africa certain. Italy, for example, struggled against Cyprus only to score a late winning goal to their fans’ delight. England, on the other hand, proved that they still are one of the world’s best teams after taking revenge at Croatia for their defeat at Wembley during the Euro 2008 qualifier last year, getting an impressive 4-1 win in Zagreb. This marked Croatia’s first home defeat since the country separated from Yugoslavia several years ago. Other favorites, such as European Championship finalists Germany and Spain, did not have any trouble beating their first opponents in the long campaign for South Africa 2010.

If you have missed the start of the season, now is the time to correct this mistake, as we are entering the most dynamic part of the first half of the season. With stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho having finally recovered from bad injuries, autumn is promising to be as hot as ever!