Archive for April 29th, 2008

Nike – “Take It To The Next Level” Commercial

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Ahhh… the time has come! The moment all of us footy enthusiasts have been waiting for: the new Nike soccer commercial. When it comes to the beautiful game, Nike’s marketing department has never failed to impress us; this time they have really pushed the boundaries of creativity, adapting a unique first-person view.

From their “How badly do you want to be a fooballer” campaign and featuring international superstars such as Arsene Wenger, William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas, Marco Materazzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ruud van Nistelrooy (among others), their newest TV commercial is titled “Take It To The Next Level” and it goes a little something like this:

You open your eyes. You see the referee has just finished booking the defender that brought you down. One of your teammates helps you up, and asks if you’re alright. “Can you take it?” he says. “Yeah yeah don’t worry about it” you reply, and carefully place the ball on the free kick spot.

Not even waiting for the referee to blow his whistle, you slam an inswinging shot past the ball straight into the net. GOAAAAAL!! Your teammates jump all over you, you’ve just won the game for your team!

As you exit the field, you spot Arsène Wenger eyeing you from the sidelines. Looks like he’s scouting for some new talent… could you be the next promising youngster heading to Emirates Stadium?

As you enter the door of the training ground, you can’t contain your excitement at receiving your fully personalized Arsenal jersey. The assistant coach points to your spot in the changing room, between shirts nº32 (Theo Walcott) and nº2 (Abou Diaby).

Time for your first match, Arsène is bringing you on against Manchester United!! William Gallas high fives you as he leaves the pitch; a slap on the cheek from the Gunners captain is all the encouragement you need!

It doesn’t take you very long to get right into the heart of the action! Wayne Rooney chests the ball and volleys it towards Cristiano Ronaldo. You somehow try to stop him but you just get pushed to the ground. Boy that’s gonna leave a mark! Before you can even get back up, you see the Portuguese player making a fool of your keeper and scoring with a slamming volley. After his goal, Ronaldo doesn’t miss taunting you for your incompetence, that was embarassing!

Enraged at your first match performance, you’re boiling with energy at your next training session. Push-ups, sit-ups, jumping, running up the stairs, you’re really pumped and ready for action.

After a long spell on the bench, Wenger has decided it’s time to give you a second chance: you’re a starter in Arsenal’s next league game. No time to waste, kick-off and let’s go!!

You pass the ball to Cesc Fàbregas, he gets by a defender then slides the ball to the right wing. With the cross is coming in towards you, you cannot miss it this time! Waiting for the ball to drop, you arm a powerful volley past the opposing keeper!! GOAAAAL!! Fàbregas kisses you and screams like a little girl with excitement.

From the kisses of Fàbregas to that of your girlfriend. You’re transported into a limousine, ready to attend some big fundraising event. It’s a drag, but you know it’s for a good cause and besides, you love the media attention.

As you make your way on the red carpet hundreds of screaming fans ask for your autograph. One crazy chick even wants you to… autograph her breasts? Don’t mind if I do! You’re glad to oblige, under the perplexed eyes of your girlfriend…

Champions’ League day! Arsenal are playing Inter Milan. You’re facing Marco Materazzi, challenging an aerial ball. The Italian defender doesn’t play subtle however, and shoves you aside before heading the ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

You can only watch helplessly as the Swede strikes a powerful shot into the top corner, leaving your keeper to pick the ball up in the back of net. Zlatan is laughing at you…

Darn, that Materazzi challenge really left some bruises. As you take your shower after the match, you discover you’ve lost a tooth!

Next week, you’re playing Barcelona. The traditional pre-match handshakes see the Blaugrana players pass by before you…Rafael Márquez, Bojan Krkic, Ronaldinho… then game on!

Receiving a pass, you chest it down and flick it over a defender, before attempting to send it down the right wing… but Marquez intercepts it!! He passes to Ronaldinho, and the pesky Brazilian makes your teammates look like fools… two sombreros in quick succession? Cesc is not happy!

Back to more training, even harder this time!! More running up the stairs… but also team spirit building: you pull down the pants of one of your teammates during practice. Everyone bursts out laughing as the joke recipient chases you angrily. It’s all in good fun though.

Then more running… so much in fact that you end up puking your lunch when you’re done. It was worth the effort though, the Dutch national team manager has monitored your progress and called you up for your first international match vs. Portugal!!

Your heart is pacing at 200 beats per minute as you enter the stadium, right behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Nani. Boy oh boy are you excited! Some pre-match stretching, Ruud van Nistelrooy does a few juggles & flicks, then hands the ball to the referee. The match can begin!!!

Kick off, your team is taking control. Ruud attempts a long-range drive but it’s parried by the keeper. He apologizes for messing up your good pass. Oh look it’s Ronaldo again, only this time you’re not letting him school you.

Your team gets the ball back, Wesley Sneijder‘s in control. One nutmeg to clear a defender, then Wesley passes the ball to you and the road to the goal is clear! You run at full pace towards the net, but a Portugal defender takes your legs away right on the edge of the box. Your mind goes black…

You open your eyes. You see the referee has just finished booking the defender that brought you down. Ruud helps you up. Wesley brings you the ball and asks if you’re taking it. You nod, carefully place the ball on the free kick spot, and start your run…
Alright I’ll quit teasing you… :) here’s the video (you can find the high res version at

Manchester United 1-0 Barcelona: Paul Scholes Sends Red Devils to Moscow (UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals, Leg 2)

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

33 years of age and match-winner for Manchester United in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals vs. Barcelona. Paul Scholes the gladiator. Paul Scholes the veteran. Paul Scholes the long-range specialist: his 14th minute strike from 25 yards (after a messy clearance by Zambrotta) was the only goal of the night, as the Red Devils advance to Moscow for the first ever fully Premiership-coloured Champions League final in the tournament’s history.

Sir Alex Ferguson may have been criticized for his overly defensive tactics in Europe, but in the end, who can blame him for his achievements? His team has conceded only 1 goal in the entire knock-out round of the competion (the 1-1 away match to Lyon), and has qualified for the tournament final. People have often criticized Italian clubs for playing defensive football, but it works. As AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti once said: “If you want entertainment, go to the cinema”. ‘Nuff said.

Tactically, Sir Alex Ferguson was dealing with two very big problems at the start of tonight’s match: no Nemanja Vidic, but more importantly no Wayne Rooney. With the young striker picking up a muscle strain in the match vs. Chelsea last week-end, the United manager was forced to change his tactics a bit and field a 4-4-2 formation, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez lone strikers and Owen Hargreaves once again in the right-back position. On the other end, Barça coach Frank Rijkaard stuck to his original plan: no Thierry Henry (benched), striking trio formed by Andres Iniesta, Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi, just like in the first leg.

To be perfectly honest, as the match started the first few minutes of weren’t exactly promising. Tension and anticipation were big for this one, but much like the first leg at the Nou Camp both teams were “afraid” of pushing forward too much, in particular the Red Devils who had to avoid the dreaded “away goal” at all costs. However amidst all the prudence, there was one player who seemed to be saying: “Screw this, I came here to play some attacking football” and that player was Lionel Messi: his constant runs and accelerations gave considerable trouble to the United defense initially, until minute 14 struck.

Recovering the ball on Barcelona’s right wing, Gianluca Zambrotta felt pressured and attempted to clear towards the center. His low pass was however intercepted by Paul Scholes about 30 yards from goal, and the former England international took little time to think where he was going to put it. Slamming shot and whammo, into the top corner with Victor Valdés helpless. 1-0 Man Utd and exactly what Sir Alex was looking for: an early goal.

Scholes’s tally certainly did its part in “waking” the game up, both on the pitch and on the stands, where the 70,000+ Red Devils fans started chanting at the top of their lungs. Galvanized by the crowd and the momentum gathered from scoring, the United players continued to push forward and came very close to extending their lead (through Nani and Ji-Sung Park notably). By the end of the half however, the Blaugrana had taken the upper hand and were keeping Edwin Van der Sar occupied: the runs of Eto’o and Messi, coupled with technique of Deco came dangerously close in giving the catalans the equalizer, especially through the long shots of the Brazilian-turned-Portuguese midfielder (narrowly wide of the post). Despite Barcelona’s best efforts however, the match went to break with Man Utd in the lead.

In the second period a somewhat invisible Cristiano Ronaldo decided to wake up a little, and get a little bit more involved in the Red Devils’ offensives. The real thorn in the Barça side was however his Portuguese colleague Nani, constantly provoking his markers with fakes, dribbles and accelerations (much like Ronaldo should have been doing but couldn’t, due to the close man-marking presence of the two catalan center-backs).

At the hour mark, with Barcelona still unable to muster any significant scoring chance, Rijkaard finally decided to play the Thierry Henry card (on for Iniesta), shortly followed by that of Bojan Krkic (on for an unimpressive Eto’o). Ferguson replied by removing Nani and Scholes and inserting Darren Fletcher and veteran Ryan Giggs. As the clock was getting closer and closer to the 90th minute mark, the tension on the pitch proportionally increased. The two Barcelona substitutes tried their best to justify their insertion on the field, but with little luck. Even the added presence of Eidur Gudjohnsen (on for Yaya Touré) in the final minutes was insufficient, as the Blaugrana were still helplessly unable to pierce through the United defense.

Eventually the referee called full time and the entire Old Trafford stadium erupted with joy, as their team will be travelling to Moscow final on May 21. It will be the first ever UEFA Champions League final opposing two English clubs, and the first final for the Red Devils since their 1999 triumph vs. Bayern Munich. For Barcelona, tonight’s elimination marks a decidedly failed season for Frank Rijkaard, whose tenure as club manager is now likely damaged beyond repair.


Manchester United F.C. MAN UTD-BARCELONA
[Match Highlights]
FC Barcelona
GOALSCORERS: 14’ Scholes (M)
MANCHESTER UTD (4-4-2): Van der Sar – Hargreaves, Brown, R.Ferdinand, Evra (92’ Silvestre) – Nani, Carrick, Scholes (77’ Fletcher), J.S.Park (77’ Giggs) – C.Ronaldo, Tevez. (bench: Kuszczak, O’Shea, Anderson, Welbeck). Coach: Ferguson.
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Victor Valdés – Zambrotta, Puyol, G.Milito, Abidal – Xavi, Y.Touré (88’ Gudjohnsen), Deco – Messi, Eto’o (72’ Krkic), Iniesta (61’ Henry). (bench: Pinto, Thuram, Edmilson, Sylvinho,) Coach: Rijkaard