"That could have been the hardest of the groups."

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lbb
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"That could have been the hardest of the groups."

Post by lbb » Wed Dec 05, 2007 9:47 am

I think the Celtic manager has been smoking the astroturf at Lennoxtown if he genuinely believes this. There's talking up one's achievement and there's spinning a load of bull. I think Strachan has chosen the latter. Milan were always going to win the group and it was always going to be a three-way fight between Celtic, Benfica and Shakhtar for second place. There was never much between those three and Celtic always had to hope that their home form would cancel out the inevitable away defeats. Reading Strachan's comments, you'd think Celtic were in Pot 4 and had climbed over some of the best teams in Europe to qualify.

No, I don't like him, seeing as you ask.

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Post by Rob » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:04 pm

I saw that as well, it made me laugh. If Rangers make it and Im not sure that they will, all the other teams will love to get Rangers or Celtic in the last 16. If they both made it into the last 8 can they be drawn together.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:23 pm

Such assessments are always down to subjective opinion of course but as a neutral with no axe to grind either way I have some sympathy with Strachan's assessment. Looking at the eight groups, with the possible exception of the Real Madrid group (Lazio, Olympiakos, W Bremen), I'd say it's the only one where all four teams would have harboured genuine belief that they'd qualify.

I guess Rangers might argue for the inclusion of their group too which is fair enough, though I personally never thought Stuttgart would amount to that much and Rangers themselves wouldn't be all that highly rated by the others (yes they reached the last 16 under McLeish but it was a diddy group they fell through then).

All the English sides for instance had at least one team in their group that were there to make up the numbers (two in Arsenal's case) albeit Liverpool conspired to make Besiktas look respectable in Turkey.

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Post by lbb » Wed Dec 05, 2007 3:21 pm

Presumably if the Old Firm were drawn together in the last eight of the Champions League, the matches would be switched to a Sunday lunchtime, kick-off at 12.30. After all, you can't have these matches taking place at night - or seems to be the view of Strathclyde Police.

I can't remember the meeting where Inter Milan and Porto were declared diddy clubs - I must have sent my apologies that night. I can think of at least 4 groups - Groups A, C, E and G - that would have met the criteria you describe. As you say, it comes down to purely subjective opinion but, with the best will in the world, I don't think it contained the strongest teams in the competition and was always a group Celtic should have looked to qualify from. I think Strachan was simply getting carried away with himself, tbh.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Wed Dec 05, 2007 3:35 pm

lbb wrote:I can't remember the meeting where Inter Milan and Porto were declared diddy clubs - I must have sent my apologies that night. I can think of at least 4 groups - Groups A, C, E and G - that would have met the criteria you describe. As you say, it comes down to purely subjective opinion but, with the best will in the world, I don't think it contained the strongest teams in the competition and was always a group Celtic should have looked to qualify from. I think Strachan was simply getting carried away with himself, tbh.
You can get sarcastic all you like, I never said there was a "meeting". I gave an opinion. Inter Milan were probably the weakest seeds going that year and indeed had to play at home in front on no fans. Porto were an over-rated side on the way down after Mourinho's departure, a point proven by the fact the finished bottom of it and let's not even mention the 4th inhabitants of that group shall we! It's only my opinion.

If you really think Besiktas were a club who harboured genuine ambition of progress from Group A then I despair. The fact they have 6 points doesn't actually mean they could have been expected to challenge. They also fell to the biggest defeat in Champions League history last month!

I already conceded Group C was of similar quality. I'm not surprised a Rangers fan thinks their group is in there. I've already said I think the inclusion of Rangers themselves in it is probably the biggest reason why it isn't albeit they have gone on to prove that wrong. In any event Stuttgart are the weakest German champions in a long time. I don't think CSKA were ever a serious competitor in their group either.

I didn't attend any meeting about it though so don't worry if you weren't invited. :roll:

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Post by lbb » Wed Dec 05, 2007 4:13 pm

So what you're saying is that Rangers could have had no expectations to qualify (it was a hard group, after all) whereas Celtic did have expectations to qualify - as did Benfica, Milan and Shakhtar - so that makes their group the hardest.

The fact that all four teams in a group have hopes of qualifying is not necessarily the key indicator of the strength of that group. I interpret Strachan's comment to mean that he believes the quality of the sides Celtic faced in their group were the toughest they could have faced. I think this is generous on his part, if so, and I wonder if this was genuinely his reaction when the draw was made or simply thought up in the post-qualification euphoria.

Alternatively, if he believes, as you do, that it was difficult because everyone else expected to qualify too then I don't really buy that either. Irrespective of whether Besiktas or Rangers or anyone else expected to qualify from their group doesn't negate the actual qualify of it, surely? You can't say to Besiktas 'okay, you're in with Liverpool, Marseille and Porto but as you don't expect to qualify from that, that's not a hard group'. I can't get my head round that.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:40 pm

lbb wrote:So what you're saying is that Rangers could have had no expectations to qualify (it was a hard group, after all) whereas Celtic did have expectations to qualify - as did Benfica, Milan and Shakhtar - so that makes their group the hardest.

The fact that all four teams in a group have hopes of qualifying is not necessarily the key indicator of the strength of that group. I interpret Strachan's comment to mean that he believes the quality of the sides Celtic faced in their group were the toughest they could have faced. I think this is generous on his part, if so, and I wonder if this was genuinely his reaction when the draw was made or simply thought up in the post-qualification euphoria.

Alternatively, if he believes, as you do, that it was difficult because everyone else expected to qualify too then I don't really buy that either. Irrespective of whether Besiktas or Rangers or anyone else expected to qualify from their group doesn't negate the actual qualify of it, surely? You can't say to Besiktas 'okay, you're in with Liverpool, Marseille and Porto but as you don't expect to qualify from that, that's not a hard group'. I can't get my head round that.
Perhaps a better turn of phrase I could have used originally was "thought capable of qualifying by others" rather than "expectation of qualifying by themselves". Rangers can expect to qualify if they want but it doesn't mean your average European observer would necessarily agree with them.

Are AC Milan the best seeded team in the competition? No, not even close. They are an ageing side seen generally as the weakest group winners and a pretty good draw for Celtic at this stage a year ago. How they actually won the thing last year is one of those mysteries you can't explain (and had a lot to do with Kaka's burst of form arriving at the right time). But they are a side of European pedigree and it would have been a surprise if they hadn't been a gimme qualifier from the group.

I think it's a valid point of view though that whatever order you care to rank the other three in, there were no easy games in the group. I absolutely agree there were no easy games in the Rangers group either though I rather suspect that Lyon and Stuttgart probably thought there was when it was drawn. Credit to Rangers for showing them otherwise.

I was trying to express a view as to what observers would have thought when the groups were drawn rather than how they necessarily turned out. And I still think Gordon Strachan has the right to draw that conclusion of he wants and not be ridiculed for it. If it wasn't the hardest group they could have fallen into based on their seeding then it wasn't too far away. Like I said, I'd accept the Real Madrid group is at least as tough if not more so.

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Post by nightfire » Wed Dec 05, 2007 7:25 pm

What made Celtic's group tough was the drawing of Shakhtar.

Although a Pot 3 team and therefore not expected to qualify Celtic knew they had a chance against Benfica given recent matches. On that basis, it was imperative that an "easier" team from Pot 4 would help the quest to qualify. They didn't get that and in most fans opinion before the draw, Celtic got the most dangerous opponents from Pot 4. Shakhtar were already known to Celtic as a good side and had spent a considerable amount of money in the summer that Celtic or Rangers could only dream about.

As a result, I was not alone in thinking that Celtic could be fighting for a UEFA Cup place which would have been fine as the team is inexperienced at this level and as a result need more games which they may have got in that tourney

On that basis, Celtic have done very well to qualify from what was a very difficult group.

Was it harder than one group or another that is all down to opinions.

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Post by Scottish » Wed Dec 05, 2007 7:32 pm

There were two quotes from Gordon Strachan that I think are worthy of comment. His observation about the hardness of the group should have been offset by recognition that Celtic were second seeds and expected to get through. Yet he managed to avoid mentioning this.

Secondly when he claimed that if it hadn´t been for a last-minute loss at Benfica Celtic would have been through before last night it seems he forgets what happened just last week when his own team won in the 92nd minute.

I like the commitment Strachan shows and he is far better to listen to than most managers but if he could just drop the blinkers every now and again I´m sure his audience would be more appreciative.

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Post by nightfire » Wed Dec 05, 2007 8:19 pm

scottish wrote:There were two quotes from Gordon Strachan that I think are worthy of comment. His observation about the hardness of the group should have been offset by recognition that Celtic were second seeds and expected to get through. Yet he managed to avoid mentioning this.
Secondly when he claimed that if it hadn´t been for a last-minute loss at Benfica Celtic would have been through before last night it seems he forgets what happened just last week when his own team won in the 92nd minute.

I like the commitment Strachan shows and he is far better to listen to than most managers but if he could just drop the blinkers every now and again I´m sure his audience would be more appreciative.
Celtic were the 3rd seed in the Group

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Post by lbb » Thu Dec 06, 2007 9:23 am

Celtic were certainly third seeds for the Champions League draw. Whilst I would just about concede that Shakhtar were very difficult Pot 4 opponents - though would Celtic have fancied a trip to Olympiakos or Fenerbahce any better given their away record? - but Benfica weren't the strongest Pot 2 opponents. Celtic could have been drawn against Valencia, Roma, Lyon, Porto or Sevilla in that group. In comparison, Benfica was a decent draw for them. And I guess that's what I'm saying. It wasn't an easy draw for Celtic but it was by no means the worst they could have had and I certainly don't recall Strachan with his head in his hands at the time.

I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one, Skyline Drifter. I simply cannot accept that this was the hardest group of all or that Gordon Strachan genuinely thought this at the time. He wouldn't have been doing cartwheels but having beaten Benfica 3-0 and held Milan just months earlier, I cannot concede they thought they'd pulled the short straw in this one. Yes, they had difficult fixtures but then everyone does in the Champions League.

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Post by Scottish » Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:52 am

nightfire wrote:
Celtic were the 3rd seed in the Group
Were they? Shows what happens when you´re away from home and relying on memory rather than records. (slinks away abjectly...)

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Post by Scottish » Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:28 pm

Okay, mea culpa and all that but thewee man is still talking mince. I've had a look at the second seeds and I wonder which if any Strachan would have picked in preference to Benfica - Valencia, Lyons, Porto, Seville, PSV Eindhoven, Roma or Werder Bremen. And I mean without the benefit of hindsight. Only Bremen were ranked below Benfica.

Plus when you consider Celtic´s away record it is difficult to see how they could have done any better- or worse- in another group. Or does he think they would have broken their away duck in Seville or Rome for example? Or is he thinking Lyons 0 Rangers 3, anything they can do......

What if they'd drawn Seville for argument and they in turn took six points off Shakhtar and gubbed Celtic at home. Celtic would have the same points tally but they´d be looking at the European Cup. A similar scenario unfolded under Martin O'Neill when three home wins weren' good enough for second place.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Fri Dec 07, 2007 10:57 am

lbb wrote:I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one, Skyline Drifter. I simply cannot accept that this was the hardest group of all or that Gordon Strachan genuinely thought this at the time. He wouldn't have been doing cartwheels but having beaten Benfica 3-0 and held Milan just months earlier, I cannot concede they thought they'd pulled the short straw in this one. Yes, they had difficult fixtures but then everyone does in the Champions League.
Fair do's, we can agree to differ. I'm not actually sure it was the most difficult group though I do think Shakhtar were probably the worst 4th seeds they could have gotten. I just thought Gordon Strachan was entitled to think it without being ridiculed for it. I can see how you could arrive at the opinion and it was certainly far from the easiest of groups.

In hindsight I'd accept that neither Milan or Benfica was anything like the worst of draws in their respective pots but I do think for a team like Celtic, the top seeds are fairly irrelevant and the 4th and 2nd seeds absolutely crucial.

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Post by lbb » Fri Dec 07, 2007 2:09 pm

As a general point, I think Strachan feels unappreciated at Celtic Park. Two league titles, two Rangers managers seen off, two last 16 Champions League qualifications and yet still some 'Celtic-minded' individuals compare him unfavourably to Martin O'Neill.

Maybe the comment was 'a cry for help' from the Celtic manager. :wink:

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