Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Year in Review

In just a few hours, the year 2007 will come to end, giving rise to a brand new and fresh 2008. Unfortunately, this review will not be the one I imagined or even hoped for in January of this same year. Throughout the 12-month period that took course, we saw more frowns (such as in the top left picture) than positive moments (such as in the top right picture), going down as a year to not be remembered in the history books for River Plate fans.

The season began in January with River giving some fantastic performances in the annual Torneo de Verano. Being crowned champions, with some two great defeats over arch-rivals Boca Juniors, River's winning year finally seemed to have arrived. Any fan that admits to not having his/her hopes high at the beginning of the year is lieing, for Fernando Belluschi's magic was giving us all hope, and even back-up players such as Diego Galvan were performing well. Add that to the arrival of big-name players from Europe (Ponzio and Rosales) and interesting prospects (Ruben and Villagra), and the final mix resulted in sugar and spice and everything nice... or so it seemed.

The start of official competitions finally began in January, and "los millonarios" started off by delivering everything they had previously promised. In our debut in the Copa Libertadores, we defeated Colo Colo (the current sub-champions of the Copa Sudamericana) in their own stadium, impressing both the press and the fans. The good results continued, with five wins in the first six matches played in the Argentine Torneo Clausura 2007. Unfortunately, things began dropping from there on out: River only found four more victories in the remaining 13 games, finishing 12 points away from the champions (San Lorenzo de Almagro). But perhaps the biggest upset came in the Copa Libertadores, in which River did not even advance from the Group Stage and lost twice to Caracas FC! The season eventually came to an end, but it didn't bring a good second-half of the year to us either.

By the time June arrived, the fans were already asking for Daniel Passarella's head. The "Kaiser" requested another six months to get his act together, and that if he did not win a single tournament by December he would depart. Contrary to his expectations, the Torneo Apertura 2007 was disastrous for River. The final result? 14th place in the league rankings, which included goleadas in favor of San Martin (SJ), Olimpo, Tigre, and Argentinos Juniors against us. There were few delightful times, including a fantastic performance in the Superclasico, some fantastic goals, a miraculous win over Botafogo, and a few other bits here and there. The closest we got to winning a tournament was the Copa Sudamericana, in which we were eliminated in a penalty shoot out in the semi-finals of the tournament, though it wasn't enough. The negative results ultimately led to Daniel Passarella resigning from his position.

December finally arrived, and to the joy of fans the year came to an end. The first positive of the post-Passarella era came with the arrival of Diego Simeone to the club, taking over Daniel's empty spot on the bench. Big names, such as Andres D'Alessandro, Diego Placente, Fernando Cavenaghi, etc. were mentioned , yet nobody has arrived, and only less-known players are now being linked to the team.

With 2008 just a few steps away, let's all hope for a positive year this time around, full of successful tournaments, victorious Superclasicos, and good performances throughout the 365 days of the year. Aguante River!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top 5 Goals of 2007

In a year in which more frustrations than positives were found, River did manage to give us small quantities of joy in some tremendous goals in the semester. There is no official confirmation stating that these were our best goals, but in my opinion these were the top five we scored in 2007:

5) Fernando Belluschi vs. Lanus

4) Diego Buonanotte vs. Rosario Central

3) Augusto Fernandez vs. Velez

2) Fernando Belluschi vs. Velez

1) Radamel Falcao Garcia vs. Estudiantes (LP)

Can you say G-O-L-A-Z-O-S? Pure class. Other honorable mentions are Radamel Falcao Garcia (vs. Rosario Central, Botafogo, and Boca Juniors), Leonardo Ponzio (vs. Colo Colo), amongst others. Hopefully we see more of these goals (..along with championships) in 2008.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays to everyone!

A few updates regarding River:

- Radamel Falcao Garcia is very close to joining Fluminese of Brazil, though a few minor details must still be arranged between the two clubs. In Brazil they guarantee that he will join Flu within this next week, yet no deal has been sealed for now.
- Fernando Belluschi already has one foot in Greece, due to almost surely joining Olympiakos before the next season. The Greek side plan on having the "rasta" help them obtain positive results in their Champions League campaign, and therefore would invest around 6.5 million euros for 60% of his transfer (the total would go to River, while the investors who own the other 40% would wait for a future transaction).
- Sebastian Abreu seems to be "los Millonarios"'s first incorporation. Nothing is official for now, but everything seems to indicate that the Uruguayan foward will join the club on loan for 18 months. Other players rumoured to join the club are Andres D'Alessandro, Diego Placente, Facundo Quiroga, and Rodrigo Archubi.
- Universidad Catolica have been confirmed as Chile 2 in next year's edition of the Copa Libertadores, and therefore will be competeing in River Plate's group, along with Universidad San Martin (Peru) and Mexico 2.

Happy holidays to everyone (except the bosteros)!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Copa Libertadores 2008: Groups Drawn

The groups for the Copa Santander Libertadores 2008 were drawn earlier on today in Paraguay. River have been scheduled to face Universidad San Martin (Peru), Chile 2, and Mexico 2. The last two teams have obviously not been determined yet. Depending on who they are, it could turn out to be an easier group than last year, though things could also get very dangerous: both the Chilean and Mexican league consist of powerful teams, and the group could get filled up with the likes of Universidad Catolica, America, and Toluca, just to give a few examples.

Anyway, here's the rest of the draw:

Group 1
San Lorenzo (Argentina)
Real Potosí (Bolivia)
Caracas (Venezuela)
Winner of Playoff 2

Group 2
Estudiantes (Argentina)
Danubio (Uruguay)
Deportivo Cuenca (Ecuador)
Winner of Playoff 1

Group 3
Boca Juniors (Argentina)
Colo Colo (Chile)
Maracaibo (Venezuela)
Winner of Playoff 4

Group 4
Flamengo (Brazil)
Nacional (Uruguay)
Coronel Bolognesi (Peru)
Winner of Playoff 5

Group 5
River Plate (Argentina)
Chile 2
San Martín (Peru)
Mexico 2

Group 6
Santos (Brazil)
San José (Bolivia)
Colombia 2
Chivas (Mexico)

Group 7
Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Sportivo Luqueño (Paraguay)
Atletico Nacional (Colombia)
Winner of Playoff 6

Group 8
Fluminense (Brazil)
Libertad (Paraguay)
Liga De Quito (Ecuador)
Winner of Playoff 3

Playoffs
1) Olmedo (Ecuador) - Lanus (Argentina)
2) Cruzeiro (Brazil) - Cerro Porteño (Paraguay)
3) Arsenal (Argentina) - Mineros de Guyana (Venezuela)
4) Mexico 3 - Bolivia 3
5) Cienciano (Peru) - Montevideo Wanderes (Uruguay)
6) Colombia 3 - Audax Italiano (Chile)

Aguante River!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Confirmed: Simeone Will be on the Bench in 2008

The search has ended: after a month of seeking a replacement for Daniel Passarella, River Plate have finally confirmed the arrival of Diego Simeone as our new coach. Unlike many of our ex-coaches (Ramon Diaz, Merlo, Passarella, Gallego, etc.), Simeone never wore our jersey as a player, yet he still has several aspects that can make us all aspire for a positive future.

As an athlete Diego played in several teams, but perhaps his most important appearance was for the Argentina National Team. He played for 14 years with the albiceletes, appearing in a total of 106 games between World Cups, Copa Americas, Olympics, friendly matches, and other encounters. He was often the captain of his teams, due to his strong personailty and great motivation skills. Luckily for us, those two traits can be vital to reverting a situation such as the one we currently are in.

Simeone made his debut as a coach in 2006, when he decided to manage the club he loves - Racing Club de Avellaneda. "La Academia" had a poor season, though "El Cholo" Simeone should not be blamed for it either, since the team was broken and in an even worse situation than River. In order to take over the role of Estudiantes' coach, he departed shortly before the season ended, and that's when his true managerial career began.

Once on Estudiantes' bench, Simeone began to create miracles. In spite of taking over a team that was closer to the relegation zone than to tournaments, he led them to success. In his first season there (Apertura 2006), he managed to win 7-0 in the teams derby (La Plata derby vs. Gimnasia (LP); equivalent to River vs. Boca for them), as well as the tournament itself. He led the team to finish first alongside Boca Juniors, and defeated them in a championship final, crowning the red-and-white team as champions for the first time in 23 years. After losing several star players during the January transfer window, "El Cholo" wasn't able to repeat the same campaign in the Torneo Clausura 2007, yet he still achieved the third place spot -a more than acceptable position for Estudiantes' normal standards-. In his last season there (Apertura 2007) he had a good campaign, and eventually departed to River.

On his arrival at the Monumental, Diego stated that he had players like Belluschi and Falcao in mind, though it seems that they are both very close to departing (a lot closer than many think). Either way, Simeone also stated his ambitions of bringing out the best of Ortega, Rosales, Ruben, and many others. His plans to play an offensive yet organized football sound tempting in River. His motivation skills bring faith to us all. For now, Diego "Cholo" Simeone sounds as the perfect coach, but only time will tell if his spell at the club is successful or not.

Side Note: View the side bar showing Fixtures & Results for some "pleasant" news (tip, tip: it involves Kaka). :D

Friday, December 14, 2007

Simeone In, Belluschi and Falcao Out?

Despite expecting to be presented as River Plate's new coach today, Diego Simeone is still jobless. Well, technically speaking, he is not, and that's the same exact reason why he is not on the bench yet: Estudiantes are making his departure much more complicated than it should be, claiming recision fees and demanding that his team of coaching staff leave as a whole. Either way, he is still expected to sign with "los millonarios" and officially become our new coach next week.

As if the coach crisis weren't enough, the transfer market is the main event at the Monumental nowadays, linking key players such as Carrizo, Belluschi, A. Fernandez, Buonanotte, and Falcao with other clubs:

Juan Pablo Carrizo: The goalkeeper had confirmed that his era in River had come to an end, though his European passport has not been validated yet. Other possibilities exist at the moment, yet the doors to stay with "la banda" have opened up once again.
Fernando Belluschi: Porto of Portugal and Olympiakos of Greece are interested in him. Although there are no official offers for him, River's directives aren't going to put any traps to his possible departure. A positive point? Simeone requested that they don't sell him, not to mention that River would only get 40% of his transfer money if he is sold (not too much money).
Augusto Fernandez: Fiorentina (Italy) and Levante (Spain) are planning on acquiring the right winger over the January transfer window. The plan, for now, is to not sell both Belluschi and him at the same time (one would leave, while the other would stay for at least another six months).
Radamel Falcao Garcia: Fluminense of Brazil are still interested in the foward's services. They were willing to pay $5,000,000 for 50% of the transfer, though River want to get paid around $16,000,000 for the full transfer. The reason? If only 50% is sold a good percentage will have to go to the Fair Play school (where Falcao originally came from), while selling all his rights would mean only paying 10% to the school.
Diego Buonanotte: Atletico Madrid are rumoured to be chasing the "dwarf". Not much more is known on his situation, though it would be an extremely huge upset to see him leave at such a young age and with a very small amount of minutes in Primera.
Daniel Vega: The ex-Nueva Chicago goalkeeper is on loan, though he would like to leave due to not receiving chances. The directives will be looking to convince him to stay, though his future does not seem to clear, especially if Carrizo remains in the team next semester.
Sebastian Dominguez: Estudiantes's defender, who was one of the candidates to reinforce our back-line next sesaon, has agreed to join America (Mexico) and therefore will not be wearing red-and-white starting January.

At the moment, the search of a new coach seems endless. To top it off, many players have possibilities of leaving the team, causing an uncertain future for River Plate. Players like Aimar, Crespo, Cavenaghi, and Placente have all been named as possible reinforcements, though it will be highly unlikely to see any of them arriving any time soon. Our situation keeps on worsening, leaving the hope of a better 2008 as our only option.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Updates: December 9th

River lost 2-0 to Banfield, in an encounter that took place for the 19th Round of the Torneo Apertura 2007. The loss extended the "millonarios"'s non-winning streak to 9 games (including both Apertura and Copa Sudamericana matches). This game has officially ended the second part of the 2007 season for River, which left us with a team that was eliminated in the Semi-Finals of the Copa Sudamericana and finished 14th in the Argentine league.

But that is not all the bad news. Many of our best players could be on their way out of the club anytime soon, leaving the future coach (could be Simeone - see below) with a big problem to resolve: Radamel Falcao Garcia is close to Fluminese of Brazil, who would be buying half of his transfer rights for $8,000,000. Goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo has already confirmed the end of his era in River, and will be on the way to an unknown club in Europe (he is owned by Lazio, but could be loaned out). Others, such as Belluschi and Augusto Fernandez, are also wanted and are very likely to leave before the beginning of next semester.

Regarding Passarella's replacement as coach of River Plate, everything seems to indicate that Diego Simeone will be the chosen one. The ex-Argentine International had been rumoured to join "la Banda" for a while now, but his arrival is now closer than ever, after he parted ways with his now ex-club Estudiantes. In River they are confident that he will sign in the next few days, but they still are conversating with Pumpido and Borghi incase things go wrong.

There could be surprises, just like when Ramon rejected our proposal, so make sure to check back soon for more news regarding the subject.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Olimpo: 4 - River Plate: 0 - Torneo Apertura 2007

Though it may sound as a joke, River lost 4-0 to Olimpo de Bahia Blanca for the 18th Round of the Torneo Apertura 2007. One of the main factors was the lack of presence of many starters such as Ariel Ortega, Radamel Falcao Garcia, Juan Pablo Carrizo, Oscar Ahumada, Nicolas Sanchez, Cristian Nasuti, etc., as well as the inclusion of alternative players (Oliva debuted, failures such as Gerlo, Peralta, and Ruben played once again, etc.), yet there is no excuse to losing to a team the size of Olimpo, especially with such an abundant score. The only option now is to wait for the new season to begin, though things just seem to be getting worse as time passes.