The End of the Copa Run

It’s hard to admit it, I think, but this loss is not, for me, devastating. I don’t want it to be devastating, of course, I don’t want to be sad, but it is surprising that I am neither. I am, partially, numbed by the up-and-down emotions of the match itself, which was end-to-end for almost 90 minutes, with blistering moments of genius, balls banging off posts, a brilliant golazo, a series of harsh fouls, a fantastic last-ditch effort by Puyol to keep a ball out of our net, and, at the end, the final whistle that did not bring us solace.

We did not have an Iniestazo in us, a Pedrazo. But we were facing a really gifted team, with grit and a plan. Perhaps you did not like that plan, but for the first 20 or 30 minutes, it worked to perfection. It worked as our midfield was anonymous to the point of me actually questioning whether they were on the field or not. It worked enough to get us frustrated. Then we went to the locker room and I can only imagine that Guardiola talked to the team, calmed them, assured them that we were the better squad, but that now we had to prove it. Don’t get tight, don’t get angry, get moving. Get going. Get rolling. And Xavi responded first in the second half and he ended up being the one to score our goal and draw us level on aggregate, but behind on away goals.

It was always going to be hard and it was. The pitch was water-logged in places, but by the end of the match it was fine. It’s no excuse, but no excuse is needed. We are and ever will be, Barça. We were beautiful today at times, enough to take your breath away. Tiki-taka, baby, is where it’s at. No one does it better and I think that soon we will look back on this and we’ll be amazed that we didn’t know we’d be as good as we are.

Even the best teams lose sometimes and it’s important to maintain perspective. We are not slipping down some slope toward mediocrity and our title aspirations have not taken a massive hit because a couple of teams have figured us out. Our quality overall is massively higher than almost any other club in the world–a fairly decent case could be made for us simply being the best–and that’s a pretty amazing thing. Sometimes the best team doesn’t win and when they don’t, you still have to enjoy them, their play, and their players. It’s not often this kind of awesome talent gets put on a field together and it’s fun to watch. Enjoy it, everyone, while it lasts, because soon enough it will be gone and we will miss these glorious years, even as we add more wonderful players and trophies to our already burden history.

As a Kansas basketball fan (whose victory today against Nebraska helped heal some of my Barça loss pain), I know what winning everything but the big one can feel like, but I’ve also learned that if you never lose, you never really know how to win. And now that we know how to lose, we’re going to crush some people on Saturday. You can take that to the freakin’ bank.

As always, have your say in the comments.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Ace
    January 14, 2010

    Bring it to the Camp andalusians.. We’ll show you how its done..

  2. jnelson
    January 14, 2010

    YEAAAAAAAA! nice post Isaiah. I cannot believe how we can take so many shots and hit the post, deflect, have saved, and plain miss when our opponents need less than a handful sometimes. The potential for our offense is IMMENSE, but right now it is like I’m watching somebody play us on Fifa with the rate of shots that actually score (EVERY game I have ever played, Messi has hit the post AT LEAST once, I kid you not…). I guess we tend to bring out the best in teams (Palop) and the most difficult challenges from the football gods (meet post and pond).

  3. Luna
    January 14, 2010

    Great post Isaiah. This is why I like this blog…folks aren’t throwing the baby out with the bath water. I’ve been reading other sites where people are blaming pep for the eto/ibra switch, Henry for ruining the match, chygnasty for being present, marquez for existing, well yeah.

    Barca is target number 1 in the footballing WORLD, so teams come with a little extra. It’s not the 2009 season, our opponents are not the opponents of 2009 (see EE). Pep knows this and he’s fully present always. I love that about him.

  4. BA
    January 14, 2010

    we weren’t going to repeat the Treble, that’s asking too much even of one of the best club sides ever. and of all our competitions, i value the Copa the least (particularly since Madrid aren’t in it). and of all the teams i’d take losing to the best in Spain, it would be Sevilla who really have a side with alot of quality. so whatever, i don’t like losing, particularly when i think we could have won the tie (by playing a real team in the first leg), but all in all i don’t think we should be too upset.

  5. messi108
    January 14, 2010

    Great post Isaiah !
    Completely changed the way i felt abt the game.

  6. ashu
    January 14, 2010

    Brilliant post Isaiah. The one genuinely sad part is the loss means watching three less Barca games this year.

    • Helge
      January 14, 2010

      It’s actually 5 less games, which is bad for us but possibly an advantage for the team (except of the B players).

      I was (and still am) in pretty much the same mood as you, Isaiah. This “loss” (which was actually a win) didn’t devastate me at all and as long as Barca plays their tiki-taka way of football with so much beauty I simply cannot feel really bad after a match.
      I’ve watched the match via a Sky Sports (UK) stream, and the commentators didn’t stop admiring Barcelona’s style and patience during the match, especially during the 2nd half. And they came to the conclusion that Barca is the best team in the world which gives so much joy to the world of football. That’s one of the reasons that makes Barca so special, we never give up our style.
      Yesterday, we weren’t supposed to advance, due to a superb in-shape Palop and maybe some not so good finishing. Last season, we might have had more “luck” in such a situation.
      But I won’t blame anybody, because the team deserves to be applauded for their relentless effort, executed with patience and moments of ingenuity.

      Visca el Barca

  7. Cesc Blanc
    January 14, 2010

    That second half was just insane and among the best I have seen of Barca. On any other day and with Palop less brilliant, it should have been a win but eff it, now we should be even more hungry for win.
    We saw Pique and Iniesta back in great form, we saw Messi dancing with the devil or whatever the eff that game was, which was just incredible what he did and maybe with a less water-logged pitch in the first half, we would have done there better too. But blimey, what a game that was…it was a joy! Gracies Companys!!

  8. yogi
    January 14, 2010

    Am not too sad as well. Just goes on to show that lady luck has to smile if a team has to win multiple knock out competitions. Am not going to blame pep as he did what he thought was best.

    Though, to be honest, i was hoping that Pedro and Bojan will start. Bring them on. Its great that we meet them again on weekend. Am hoping for a revenge score.

  9. Cesc Blanc
    January 14, 2010

    next question….why do you support Kansas in basketball? (I support UCLA btw.)

    • January 14, 2010

      Father is an athletic alum from there, whole family is from Kansas. An aunt and some cousins went there, too. My baby pictures are mostly me with a KU shirt on, so I was raised on it full bore. I never had a choice.

  10. stephen
    January 14, 2010

    Agreed with the posts so far. This is not a loss, I think if Guardiola had not underestimated Sevilla in the first match, we would be fine, but he did, the past and he has given us so much already the guy can make a mistake or two.
    For one, I am kind of glad we dropped this. La Liga is the bragging cup, and Champions is the Big One ! (Which we’d repeat and it’d be great)

    Ibrah needs a come back.. and score some beautiful Ibrah-can-only-make Goals !

    Looking forward to this weekend, hopefully we can pull this one off !

  11. Sid
    January 14, 2010

    Why does Xavi have to say “We were the better team” after every match we lose ?

    • Cesc Blanc
      January 14, 2010

      well, we didn’t lose this one and from 180 minutes, we were fairly the better team for at least 140 minutes of them.

    • Helge
      January 14, 2010

      Because we didn’t lose and overall, I think we have truely been the better team 🙂

      • Sid
        January 14, 2010

        I agree. Its just that I dont like this comment coming from him every time we lose (Just like I didnt like Rijkaard saying that “The other team was better, we need to improve” after every game we lose)

  12. Hector
    January 14, 2010

    Great words, Isaiah. It was a beautiful game which reminded me of all the times in the past decade when I have actually been proud of a Barca loss. We went down swinging, playing our style, and giving it all. No excuses and no shame. That second half truly was one of the best halfs this season’s team has put together. Lest we forget, we won the game but lost the tie.

    Ironically, I truly believe that this awas the best 1-0 “win which is also a loss” that I’ve ever seen whereas after re-watching the Tenerife game while doing some research, I have to say that THAT game was hands down the worse 5-0 win I’ve ever seen (and Messi had the worse performance while scoring a hat trick that I’ve ever seen). The awesome/weird thing is that both games happened within 4 days of each other.

  13. January 14, 2010

    Honestly, I don’t think we were the better team, not even close. And that must not be a reason to feel bad about it nor is it needed to say so we feel better toward the result. It was the referee who helped us to get this result. Sure we had our chances, but they had their chances as well. Sure the referee even avoided giving us a foul here or there that we deserved; but he had the worst calls against them. Puyol saved our day here, Pelop more or less saved their day there, that’s a detail.

    It’s not that I am angry about the result. It’s all good. The second half we did really well and their keeper saved their day the same as Valdes saved our day against Tenerife. But in general it was more a Bad first half, decent second half (especially when Sevilla became more defense oriented leaving the room for us in the midfield), and a result that will serve us well on the long term. That’s all positive in a way or another.

    They dominated the flanks and closed the center. When they wanted to attack (first half) they were better than our offense, and still they were more solid in defense than we were. When they wanted to defend in the second they defended well against the team and were only short in some moments of individual quality that we have in our team. Team Vs Team is another story. So, saying we were better against a team that dictated the game tempo and system is a bit harsh toward Sevilla.

    I think we can handle being the not-better team in a game every once and while. Next game will be different.

    • Diane
      January 14, 2010

      Nice to give Sevilla their due. Both games were fantastic to watch largely because we had such a worthy adversary. It wasn’t a cheap win or loss on either part. And boy are those guys fast btw. Obviously too bad we were knocked out, but games like those — even with both teams missing key players, some lapses at either end, bad calls both ways — are why we love La Liga.

      • DontPanic
        January 14, 2010

        Tell me about it. When Jesus Navas smoked Abidal (I think it was in the first half) I was having Navas vs. Marcelo flashbacks.

  14. vicsoc8
    January 14, 2010

    I haven’t seen the game yet as I was about to leave work and watch it, and my boss decided that would be the perfect time to ask me to stay late and work on a random project that is someone else’s job, sweet.

    I may be wrong since I didn’t see the game, but I think Pep put out the wrong lineup. The lineup said in large neon letters I WANT TO PROGRESS. However I think the game would have been much better utilized if Pep had taken the chance to experiment a bit. For example, what happens if Busi can’t play in a game while Yaya is gone? (suspension anyone?) The DMarquez experiment failed and Chygrynskiy only played there for five minutes. We should have tried either Dima or Pique there, so we had a backup plan in place.

    Similarly I would have liked to see a different center back pairing. We know Puyol-Pique works, but when they are split up we give up goals. Why not try Pique-Milito in case Puyol has to move out to the right? Why not try Puyol-Milito or Puyol-Dima or some other combination to see how it works? I’d rather try them now than throw them in together when we could be dropping points.

    Finally, I wish we had more youngsters on the field. Bojan has been on a very short run of form – give him more chances! See if he can seize his opportunities! I also would have liked to see JDS or Thiago start. We have a lot of talented youth, and it is going to be difficult (impossible?) to accommodate all of them – but it will be easier if they are patient, and they will be patient if Pep continues to show trust in the youth.

    I worry that this lineup will undermine the notion that the CDR is a place where squad players and youth can play, and Pep can experiment without too much pressure. I worry that Pep is too focused on winning everything – whether it be due to his personality or the pressure on him from the media. Either way, I hope his first loss will help him realize that the fans aren’t going to blame him and call for his head if he doesn’t win every trophy.

    • Miguel
      January 14, 2010

      i’m pretty sure we’ve tried puyol-usedtobenasty earlier this season. puyol-milito didn’t work during the rijkaard era because no one would move the ball up, although the caveman did exceptionally well in that regard yesterday. i’m down for trying out pique-milito as they’d complement each other swell. i’m down for giving milito more playing time anywhere, with anyone. that he won’t(nor jdubs, thiago, muniesa,…) get any playing time in the copa del rey is the biggest bummer about this loss over those two legs.

  15. JMo
    January 14, 2010

    This post was… refreshing.

    I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion on what it means to lose and why the world should fear us from here on out.

    Pep has a chip on his shoulder now, but I hope he stops blaming himself for everything. The camera montage from yesterdays match got mer nervous.

    He looked like a boy who was recently denied a prom date.

    • Tutomate
      January 14, 2010

      It’s psycology, he blames himself so the players can feel like it’s their fault he feels that way and come out next with the intetion of proving that Guardiola is the coach they love.

    • Miguel
      January 14, 2010


  16. cliveee
    January 14, 2010

    the dude in front of Sevilla’s goal was on fire and was being unstoppable… 5+ vital saves to keep their team on the progressing side… Can Victor Valdes beat that performance? I say yes, but against a team like Barcelona? He doesn’t have that chance to play his own team. but Palop really has what it takes to get the call on the national team.

  17. ooga aga
    January 14, 2010

    that was one of the most exciting matches of soccer i have seen in a while. 90 friggin minutes of jail-break soccer. awesome. satisfied even though quedamos afuera. we are The Best and just because we got knocked out, doesnt change that.

  18. ooga aga
    January 14, 2010

    Palop (Polyp) always pulls that shit against us! Like every other friggin keeper! but especially him! he’s class.

  19. Alexis
    January 14, 2010

    It took me ages to sleep since it had been months and months that we were in such situation.
    However, as much as I wanted to go through, I admit it might be good on the long run. Most of these matches would have been played in the next 4-6 weeks, wouldn’t they? That is almost a match per week less in their legs.
    Helge, do not be afraid. The season is still long and the babies will have time to play.
    I think Sevilla, despite having many injuries, deserved to go through: a win 1-2 at the Nou Camp is impressive. And that match they deserved to win (only my opinion). Another thing is that yesterday’s second half was absolutely amazing.
    It is good that both players and fans feel the taste of defeat once more. It is a step backwards in order to bounce back and fight for La Liga and the Champions League. That would be our treat: being the first team to win it back to back in a couple of decades more or less.

  20. Diane
    January 14, 2010

    Great post Isaiah. And Kxevin, keep the deep breathing going, you’re going to be fine.

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