Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bergkamp and Lyon...Awesome

I just wanted to touch upon two milestones from over the weekend...

The first was Dennis Bergkamp Day at Highbury. The Dutch star will be retiring at the end of the season and the Arsenal faithful, many of whom donned the orange in honor of his Dutch heritage, paid their respects to the man who helped lead quite an impressive era in the club's history, which included three Premiership titles, two doubles, and an unreal unbeaten streak of 49 games in the Premiership in 2003 and 2004.

Although he didn't start on Saturday and wasn't even a certainty to play, Bergkamp managed to set up the winning goal and scored the one that sealed it. Nice way to go out.

Perhaps, the one moment Bergkamp will always be remembered most for was the late goal that beat Argentina and sent Holland to the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup. (Video of the goal can be seen here.) However, the best Bergkamp goal I can recall came all the way back in qualifying for the 1994 World Cup. The Dutch were playing England in the old Wembley stadium and the English were struggling mightily, which was almost unheard of. If you remember, England shockingly didn't qualify that go around, and Bergkamp's goal on this day had a lot to do with that. You had to see it to fully appreciate it, but he ran under a long ball that came over his head directly from behind and one-time volleyed it into the back of the net and stunned Wembley. If I remember correctly, the game ended 2-2 and the two lost points at home eventually were the differnce between the Brits qualifying and not. Unbelievable goal.

The Iceman, as Bergkamp is called, always seemed like one of the good guys. A quiet guy. He rarely talked. Not to the media, not to opponents or refs on the field. He just quietly did his thing, and did it well for a long time. He'll be missed.

No Bergkamp and a new stadium next year. Things are changing at Arsenal.

The other milestone I wanted to mention was Lyon's fifth consecutive title in France, the longest ever such streak in French history. This despite a coaching change and the plundering by larger, richer clubs who have swooped in a signed young stars like Michael Essien. Lyon has been one of the more underrated stories in soccer and their accomplishment should not go without note.

That said, Lyon must still be stinging from their loss to AC Milan in the quarterfinals of the Champions League when they were just minutes away from advancing on aggregate, until a goal from Filippo Inzaghi in the friggin' 88th minute ousted them in heartbreaking fashion. That was one of the more demoralizing losses I've seen in recent times. Ouch.

But, like the French announcer said following Lyon's 1-0 win over PSG over the weekend, they are now immortal and possibly the best team in French history. Not too shabby.


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