Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Renaud Emond

When I do a Player Profile, it’s tough to actually pick a player who’ll not only play, but make a difference. With a huge game, in this case, the Croky Cup final, this match could relieve such pressure going into the Playoffs as with Genk or Standard will be guaranteed Europa League football, just like Zulte Waregem last season. With that said, you have to feel that the difference maker could be a striker.

With today being the Croky Cup final, there’s only one Standard Liège player I can pick right? Renaud Emond has come into his own in this tournament and there’s no other player I could pick surely. After a first half of the season to forget in the league, the Belgian centre forward has been very impressive in the Pro League. It’s like 2018 is the year of Emond at Standard, scoring four and chipping in with three assists too. Now that Orlando Sa has left, you’d expect him to get more playing time, and scoring two in his last two, including in the dramatic win last weekend, he is as red hot as his hair.

But forget the league, he has taken the Croky Cup by storm. For me, Les Rouches have had the toughest run in the cup this year, playing Anderlecht and Oostende away, and then stopping Club Brugge getting to the final. The 4-1 home win will live long in the memory for Emond, as he banged in a hat trick that spoiled any chances of potential double for Club Brugge. He also hit a nail in the coffin scoring at the Jan Breydel too. As an attacker, you’d be relishing the chance to play for Standard Liège this year, as the team have managed to score three or more goals in seven matches. A far cry compared to the back end of 2017. The club will be buoyant after last weeks victory over Oostende and the fact Standard have beaten De Smurfen twice this season.

A tough test for Les Rouches in the way of getting past a strong and focused Genk side, who look totally different under Phillipe Clement. Adding to that, the strong defence including Vukovic, Aidoo and Colley, it will be difficult, but certainly a test Emond can pass, going by the opposition Standard have faced so far. With the supporting cast of Marin and Carcela, and the great width Standard have, you’d think Standard could score plenty of goals.

This final could live long in the memory. Plenty of attacking prowess on both sides, it’s Renaud Emond’s task to etch his name into the history of Standard Liège. Who says he couldn’t…?

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Nikolaos Karelis

When I do a Player Profile, it’s tough to actually pick a player who’ll not only play, but make a difference. With a huge game, in this case, the Croky Cup final, this match could relieve such pressure going into the Playoffs as with Genk or Standard will be guaranteed Europa League football, just like Zulte Waregem last season. With that said, you have to feel that the difference maker could be a striker.

For Genk, I have picked Nikolaos Karelis because for me, this diminutive front man is such a good striker, and given the opportunity, I feel he’ll take it. The Greek attacker really hit the ground running when he joined the club, and before his horrendous injury, he was averaging a goal every 107 minutes. Highly impressive! With him being injured, maybe Genk could’ve progressed to the Cup final last season, or even going further in the Europa League?

It’s taken him a while to get back into the action, and this time under another manager. Eased back in slowly, and picking up yet another injury between comebacks, he looks to have found his feet under Clement with three goals and two assists in his past six games. Along with that, he is picking up some serious playing time too, which I’m sure will make him even happier than anything else.

Today however, he’ll have a stern test with two of my favourite Pro League players trying to stop him. The experience and quality of Guillermo Ochoa, with the strength and power of Christian Luyindama. To get past them isn’t impossible by no means, but for Genk this season, only Siebe Schrijvers has managed to find the back of the net against Standard. With the quality of Samatta and Pozuelo in support, you’d think breaking that barrier is easily doable, but in a cup final anything can happen.

The cup run Genk have had has been bumpy. After a 1-0 win over Division B champs Cercle Brugge, penalties have had to save the day against Beveren and Mechelen. Away goals aided in the semis too. Karelis has only played 24 minutes so far, and like I said, he may not even start today. But what is guaranteed is quality and execution IF he manages to get the opportunity in front of goal. Could he be the hero? Of course he can.

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: KRC Genk 1997/98

With this weekend being the Croky Cup final, I thought I’d try my best to have a look at the very first one KRC Genk had under their current guise, which was twenty years ago this year! How quaint that De Smurfen have reached the cup final in their 30th anniversary season, with a manager who was involved in this memorable cup victory as a player. A huge game against Standard Liège this weekend, but there was an even bigger win back in ’98 against the champions of that season.

In fact, that season was actually pretty decent for Genk. Second in the league and were on the up, this cup win was the foundation for the success in the next season as the club were looking to create history beyond their former name. Both Genk and Club Brugge only had home matches leading up to the final, but it was clear who had the tougher run. Club Brugge were showing their superiority scoring 4, 5 and 6 in the lead up to their 3-2 aggregate win in the semi, whereas Genk were steadily progressing, beating Lierse and local rivals Sint-Truiden 3-1 going into the semi finals.

That semi final was a tough one. Tougher than the final. The two legs against Germinal Ekeren couldn’t separate either team as Genk progressed on away goals, getting a 2-2 draw. Ekeren were not only the holders but finished third in the league too, proving how difficult a draw Genk had throughout the run.

Going into the final, Club Brugge had been scintillating. Walking the league winning the title by eighteen points and were hopeful of completing the double. That’s the great thing about football, and especially cup finals. Genk came in, took their chances, and (through research) seemed to dominate. A quick fire brace by Souleymane Oulare before the half hour looked to have settled any nerves. If anything however, the most nervous player looked to be Dany Verlinden, spilling a long range effort for the opener, and not reacting quick enough to the third from Thordur Gudjonsson.

A 3-0 halftime lead in the cup final. Unbelievable! The only thing that could make it better is a fourth, which was scored by Jacky Peeters, who had half of Heysel to run into and coolly finish to settle anything there and then. A first cup win for KRC Genk, as the cups won by Waterschei Thor don’t count. For De Smurfen to win this weekend would be massive. A great turnaround in a Jekyll and Hyde season, brought about by Phillipe Clement, he’d love nothing more than to cap off his maiden season as a first team manager with a trophy. With Genk never losing a Beker van België final, it’s a good omen leading up to the game, especially with what happened with the 1999/2000 success over Standard!

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: Standard Liège 1953/54

As we edge nearer to this weekend, I thought I’d try my best to look at a previous final from the past. Today, I’m looking at Standard Liège and their first Beker van België victory, all the way back from the 50s! This was the first final in nineteen years after a hiatus, and was also only the sixth victory in the cups long history, even though association football had been in Belgium since the late nineteenth century.

In the league, Standard didn’t have the best of times. Finishing thirteenth, they stayed out of the relegation zone by a single point. In such a tight league however, they were only four points off of Racing Mechelen in sixth, the team Les Rouches would defeat in the cup final. I guess like some seasons, although football was never as popular as it is now back then, you could spin that the players focused more on their cup exploits than in the league, I guess the negative is that the Cup Winners Cup or Fairs Cup weren’t ‘invented’ back then, although the Fairs Cup was created shortly after this cup win.

Looking at the cup run, Liège had a similar run to Mechelen in how their results panned out. Both getting a 5-1 in the first round, and then both winning 2-1 in the quarterfinals. The competition kicked off with a fine victory over R.F.C. Brugeois. As I mentioned, a 5-1 score line, almost the same as this years semi final first leg. The difference however is that unlike Brugge doing well this season, that Brugeois side weren’t in the top flight.

Moving on. A tight 2-1 result against Daring Club de Bruxelles followed. A team who’d go on to narrowly get relegated from the top flight that season. I say narrowly because of course, it was two points for a win back then. In today’s money, they’d have actually finished above Standard by one point! Heading into the semi finals, a derby between Standard Liège and Sêrésien (now Seraing) took place, where a magnificent 5-2 triumph sealed the the club from Sclessin’s first cup final trip to Brussels to face Racing Mechelen.

You’d think with it being a final, it’d be cagey. But like I said, football hasn’t always been like today. A magnificent 3-1 win occurred with all the goals coming in the first half. The deadlock was broken in the very first minute by Sébastien Jacquemyns. Playing in either defence or midfield, he had a brief stint at the club, but a memorable one in his two year stay. Eight minutes later, prolific midfielder Joseph Givard doubled the lead. In his eight years at the club, he managed this cup success, along with a league title four years later. Givard averaged a goal every 3.5 matches.

Jozef Mannaerts halved the deficit, before skipper and one club man Fernand Blaise put the icing on the cake just before half time. Spending his entire career at the club, Blaise only managed this cup win in his thirteen years. Scoring in the final, he has etched himself into Standard history as they went on to bigger and better things.

Winning their first final, Standard Liège have gone on to play in fifteen more finals, winning seven in total. The third most successful club in the cup in Belgium, and second in regards of appearances. They’ll equal Club Brugge’s appearance record this weekend, with the hope of adding another trophy to the cabinet.

Posted in Matches in Brief

And that was that

I’m currently typing this at halftime where the action has been pretty fast and furious. Watching Anderlecht-Antwerp because it’s on tv and although it’s been decent, the action looked like it was coming from the Guldensporen where De Kerels are doing exactly what they’re meant to be doing, and Standard Liège are melting under the sun at the Versluys Arena, torn apart twice in the first half where they’re losing 2-0 to Oostende.

You don’t know where to look as goals are flying in regularly at Lokeren and Genk too, but it’s the visitors who are leading at those respective matches. However, at the bottom, Mechelen will be happier right now as they’re currently safe, at the expense of Eupen, where both matches are 0-0. I guess the major positives for both is that they’re not losing with 45 minutes left!

It looks like it’s a shootout between Kortrijk and Antwerp. Antwerp have been all over Anderlecht like a rash, and Matz Sels has done very well, but if Antwerp win or Kortrijk collapse, then The Great Old would’ve squeaked sixth place. It’s been topsy turvy and I’m loving it, but I’m sure it’s nerve racking for these two, and gut wrenching for Mechelen and Eupen at the bottom!

Mechelen snatches an early second half goal! Mera has been the saviour up front (surprisingly) for Mechelen. And at the same time, Standard get a goal back, possibly beginning their comeback. Obviously you’ll all know this but as I’m typing as it’s happening. It’s exciting. Eupen must know they have to score two goals now, and quickly! It’s like I’m tweeting a long blog post.

I would write about STVV-Brugge, Lokeren-Zulte and Genk-Gent but there isn’t much point as those matches only really matter to their fans, although if I were a Lokeren fan, there’s no point today as they’ve been dreadful at home and look likely to NOT win again at the Daknam. Talking of fans, Antwerp keep singing ‘your support is fucking shit’ to Anderlecht. Yeah we get it, they’re shite. Be more creative!

Mechelen are surely safe. Massive second goal, likely condemning Eupen to the second tier. A sigh of relief across Belgium as a nation of football fans looked desperate to wave goodbye to the Pandas from the top flight. I’ve been so into writing this that I’ve hardly watch the And-Ant match, with thirty minutes left.

Standard amazingly grab an equaliser and could do the unthinkable. Huge goal by Djenepo with plenty of time for a winner. Oostende have been great recently but all to play for as Kortrijk are hanging onto sixth by a thread. Unbelievable really because a goal changes everything in Oostende and Brussels.

Brugge take the lead at STVV in a match where my phone didn’t even bother informing me. Does my phone know that I…doesn’t matter…STANDARD HAVE TURNED IT AROUND! Unbelievable. I wrote them off. The unpredictable nature of the Pro League is alive! It’s 3-2 Les Rouches. It’s all kicking off. Eupen grab a goal and Anderlecht get a penalty. Gent double their lead. Anderlecht score through Ganvoula. Brilliant day in Belgium through action and plot twists.

What the fuck! Eupen triple their lead. Tears running down cheeks, dancing in the streets, it’s amazing scenes everywhere. Fucking incredible! And now Anderlecht are down to 9 men! Bad challenge. Had to be red by Trebel. Wouldn’t be surprised if somehow Antwerp make it 3-2 in the 200th minute!!! This has been an incredible ninety minutes in nearly every match in the JPL today. It’s showed who’ll be where, but also professionalism as Charleroi look ragged, Anderlecht have still battled and Zulte Waregem May want to set a marker with another good win, if they keep the score as it is. Even Genk and Gent have done their job with a good match so far as it’s now 2-1 Gent, with Genk grabbing a goal.

Toyokawa May have just sealed safety for Eupen and what a job Makélélé has done. I always get emotional regarding relegation. It’s devastating and to see Mechelen go is a shame. This will be it from me, regardless of what else may happen. I’m genuinely upset for Mechelen, as I would’ve been for Eupen. My actual club has never seen relegation but I’m certain it’s heart breaking…

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Evgen Makarenko

Today is a day where three clubs need to win. Standard Liege, Antwerp and especially Kortrijk. A place in Playoff 1 is at stake and in a long, arduous and unpredictable season, KV Kortrijk have put themselves into a position where I’m sure if you’d had told De Kerels fans this back in November, they’d have laughed in your face! I remember I was in a bar in Beveren looking at Twitter at the exact point it was broken that Yannis Anastasiou was relieved of his duties as Kortrijk manager. At the point, the club took an upward turn.

An ever present amongst the matchday squad this season, someone who I actually really like is Evgen Makarenko. The Ukrainian came over and I’m sure nobody knew much about him. His first time playing outside of the Ukraine, he may have felt this was a last chance for him, although that me be a bit unkind. Taken on a one year deal at the Guldensporen, he has taken his chance with both hands and it has been a success in my eyes. Playing as a left back until Glen De Boeck took charge, he has settled nicely in the holding position and is a mainstay there. I’m sure you’ll agree the 26 year old has flourished in that position.

Since moving to that position, the club have kept six clean sheets and what’s more impressive on a personal note, is that he has only received three yellow cards. Sometimes as a holding midfielder, you don’t have to dive in and just shuffle from side to side snuffing out through balls and stealing possession from in front of the player.

Maybe a negative is not the lack of goals, but maybe creating the opportunities. With players ahead of him like Perbet and Chevalier, even a long ball can get them behind and they’ll do the rest. Of course his job is stopping rather than starting, but chipping in now and again would be useful to the boss.

Last time these two played was on the first day of the season where Les Zébres won 1-0 through a penalty. Makarenko wasn’t even at the club then! Charleroi to be fair have had a great season. But since the turn of the year, you can’t help but think they’ve ran out of gas and slowed right down. Kortrijk could take advantage of this today. However, Kortrijk have lost their last two matches, albeit in the derby against Zulte Waregem and then against leaders Club Brugge.

To round of, in a match where you need a win and goals, why focus on the deep lying holding midfielder? Because you also need a cool head, a good defensive mind and patience to unlock an equally tough defence in Charleroi. Huge game today!

Posted in Matches in Brief

Who will go and who will stay?

When you say that title, you have to use the aliens voice in Toy Story. If you don’t, lighten up! Come on guy! Moving swiftly on…I’m not actually going to give my opinion on Genk-Gent, Lokeren-Zulte Waregem and STVV-Club Brugge because nothing is really riding on those matches. Of course three of those teams can go further up the table, but that’s irrelevant now.

Starting at the bottom though, where top flight status means more to fans I’ve spoken to than anything else regarding Mechelen. I love an underdog and a battler, that’s why I’ve enjoyed seeing Eupen picking up points and taking this to the wire. That’s not me saying I want Mechelen to go down, it’s just the clamber for Eupen to be unsuccessful…everyone has there reasoning. Like I said, the history Mechelen have is great in that they’ve won four league titles and were the last Belgian club to win a European trophy. But they’ve been lacklustre, uninspiring, trigger happy and all over the place. Every time you think they’ve turned a corner they box themselves in again.

Eupen on the other hand were entertaining, even in defeat as they’d lose heavily, but they could win or draw handsomely too. They changed their manager where I thought it was a risk as Makélélé had never been in this situation in a dugout. Probably on the pitch too. But he has done extremely well and has given the Pandas a fighting chance. It looks like goal difference may be the overriding factor as they’re both on 24 points, and both have winnable matches.

Eupen have the ‘easier’ fixture as they host Mouscron at home, whereas Mechelen have Beveren at the AFAS. That’s why I feel a lot of fans in Belgium may be upset because I don’t only feel Eupen may win, but win well. Both know exactly what they have to do, and even a 1-0 win is good enough for Mechelen. Technically, a 1-0 defeat can still be good enough, depending on what’s happening at the Kehrweg. I guess that overall, don’t leave anything in the changing room and take it all on the pitch and stay focused.

The other fixtures of interest involve Standard, Antwerp and Kortrijk. I wrote off Antwerp and Kortrijk last week and said that Standard should sneak the top six. What a difference a week makes! I can’t actually decide who’ll get in there. Oostende have been amazing this and last month. Antwerp may have finally found their shooting boots last week, and just in time. And Kortrijk are always dangerous, especially at home, against a dire Charleroi.

I guess the good thing for De Kerels is that they can score plentiful of goals at home. Chevalier is on his own personal mission for the Taureau d’Or and Kaminski is solid, with an improved defence, so Kortrijk will feel positive. Standard will equally be as confident. However, like I’ve said, Oostende have been outstanding and are willing to win by any means necessary. With Sa leaving for China, that’s goals out of the team at a time they need them, with the result. Lastly, Antwerp have Anderlecht away, where Teodorczyk has decided to turn up and find the net. Morioka looks to have settled too, so Antwerp have an extremely tough task. Defensively they can be good, keeping eleven clean sheets this season. They’ll just need their forwards to really hit form, at least for tomorrow.

At the end of the day, Standard hold the advantage. They are in sixth and that still matters. However, if Kortrijk win and Standard draw, goal difference will see Kortrijk leap frog them. So many permutations in this three team mini battle for sixth.

If I had to put my neck on the line, I’d probably say Mechelen will stay up and Standard will get sixth. It’s not because that’s what I want. I don’t particularly care as I’m neutral. But football isn’t always lovey-dovey or romantic where the underdog always progresses and as I’ve always said, the cream rises to the top. Just tell that to Anderlecht, Gent and Genk who have all had their own dreadful seasons in patches.

Posted in Uncategorized

Quiet Week

This week I have been quiet. Probably much has gone on in Belgian football. I’ve tried to keep abreast of any news I can be bothered to look at but my recent ‘efforts’ have mainly been out of fantasy or somebody calling me a tourist, which I still love by the way.

Because this weekend is so important to five clubs in particular, between 6-8 and 15-16 positions, my focus has been more on the pitch than anything in the boardrooms around the Pro League. Obviously things at the top of each club can have some relevance on what happens further down the pecking order, and then can spill onto the pitch. I guess an example could be Oostende this season, who once their new owner was named their results have picked up.

I want to try and find new ways of writing something half decent rather than writing for the sake of it. I can never do this ‘tactical analysis’ of matches because when I played football, I played with my head and heart and I hate how now, footballers can tend to be robotic. If you know you’re better than the opposing player, then beat him. Take that shot, play that ball, take those chances! Sometimes that shot you take spills out of the keepers hands. Or that pass you attempt deflects into an unmarked strikers pass. That’s how I played. Not forceful, but at least play creatively.

What makes me laugh is everyone thinks they’re a coach, but never the player. The player is the one who dictates the results essentially. Those same players at Kortrijk, Gent and Genk can’t just be performing because of tactics surely? I’ve always had the thinking that a player can’t be excused when they might say ‘I’m more effective down the middle’ or out wide, WHATEVER.

Just do as your told. Your profession is footballer. Not attacking right full back or centre half who can play as an auxiliary forward in the last ten minutes. And like when a player can’t use their weaker foot at all. Would rather play the ball with the outside of their right foot instead of using their left. You train everyday. Practice your weakness, then maybe you’d be better?

I have clearly turned this into a rant, but I think modern day football has annoyed me slightly, where the most simplest of games can be turned complicated by people who think they’re too smart. Winning is winning like I said last week, and I’m sure if your team won 1-0 every week and guaranteed success, you wouldn’t be moaning. And if you moan then you’re clearly an idiot.

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: 1940 European Cup???

Because I’m bored, weird, whatever…I decided, armed with a pen, paper, Wikipedia and virtual dice, to do my own ‘Champions League’ with clubs who won their domestic leagues in the 1938/39 season. Some teams technically didn’t win it that season because Russia seemed to be all over the place, and there was a civil war in Spain, so I used the reigning champions from before the war began.

Amongst this there were some big clubs from their respective nations. Glasgow Rangers, AEK Athens, Schalke, Everton and a ‘group of death’ which included Porto, Ajax, Athletic Bilbao and Bologna! Amazing stuff when the draw was made in my lounge in a teacup, pulling out screwed up pieces of paper. The press were just upset knowing two big clubs wouldn’t make it past the group stages, but at least we all know it wasn’t fixed! And representing Belgium. Ahhh Belgium, the land I wanted to do oh so well in this were represented by 1938/39 champions R Beerschot A.C. A team no longer in existence, with their last guise coming as Germinal Beerschot and then Beerschot AC.

I decided to use the Champions League format rather than the classic straight to knockout it used to be. Of course, teams used to be invited in the beginning, instead of being domestic champions. Some of these may never have entered unless it was my way! They were thankful to come along, especially Beerschot, Sète from France (now in a national league), Voronezh from Russia (there is F.C. Fakel Voronezh, but not the same), BSK Beograd (now OFK) and Venus Bucureşti (4th tier now in Romania).

What that shows is that football does have a rich history all over the world, where it is cyclical. There’s heritage and at some point, random clubs dominated their domestic leagues. It is amazing, like Venus Bucureşti and Sète, where the former won five titles in the 30s, and the latter were the first French team to win the double!

But going into this prestigious, made up European Competition. Well, not made up. I mean the competition exists but back then, and the fact I…never mind. Two teams dominated the group stages in Beograd and Voronezh both gaining 14 points! The group of death with Porto, Ajax, Bilbao and Bologna was reasonably tight, with the Spaniards and Italians coming good. Incredible! In Group C, Everton finished third, above Bucureşti, but below Admira Wien and Danish minnows B 93!

Now. Group A. The group that peaked my interest included Beerschot amongst Beograd, who we already know had progressed, with Glasgow Rangers in there and IF Elfsborg of Sweden. After two draws against Elfsborg and Rangers, things took a wrong turn with three defeats on the bounce, before a final draw against Rangers saw them eliminated. A minus five goal difference with three points. Sounds almost too realistic if you look at Anderlecht in this season’s competition. Only Sète had a worse time of it, with one point and a negative nine goal difference.

Of course I played out the rest of the tournament because this would’ve been pointless otherwise. As I’m a Belgian football blogger, what would anybody gain from finding out that the winner wasn’t from Belgium? It’d mean nothing at all. Of course I know the winner, just wonder how many of you are interested?

Posted in Uncategorized

Am I a Tourist?

This isn’t planned, although most of my entries aren’t. They’re more a reaction of something that’s happened, much like most news anyway. However, I’m just a blubbering fool who spends/wastes his time typing about Belgium and the football played there. But tonight, something tickled me when I read something…

On Facebook I am part of a group committed to every top club in the land. I do this to get an idea of what football fans think over there from right here. People might have and can have this idea if they like, I can’t control your minds, but someone said I was a member of ‘the real tourist fans’. That’s fair enough, each to their own. I replied stating I’m always there with my bumbag, camera around my neck, along with my half and half scarf.

I honestly found it funny. I have one love in football and that is the pile of shite that I went to watch yesterday afternoon in Brighton. The six tattoos prove it! I have stated in the past I don’t have any favourites in Belgium, although I am warming to some clubs more than others. But win, lose or draw, I try to remain neutral.

For example, I like Gent. I also like Oostende and that’s why I applauded De Kustboys in their victory. Even though I like Gent and their fans, it was a great result regardless of performance. I got accused of loving Kortrijk. I like Kortrijk as much as anyone else. Socially I like them because their Twitter is great along with the fans I’ve conversed with. I have also damned them on the racism in December. If I ‘loved’ them I wouldn’t have said anything at all if I didn’t want to ‘upset anyone’.

I’m such a tourist, I use minutes, sometimes hours in a day to write about a league that nobody here cares about. I’m trying my best to make people care, but we’re English, and selfish, and nothing is better than the Premier League, unless you’re pretentious and say La Liga or the Bundesliga is better, whatever. But like I’ve said, hilariously I’m a tourist, trying to learn, put my thoughts online and engage with other Belgian football fans to bring a wider community.

If it works, great. If it doesn’t, great. I like writing and love football, especially from the Pro League. Looking up reasons to visit Belgium, football wasn’t on there unfortunately. Chips, beers, chocolate and history was, but no football….never mind. More for us to enjoy!!!