The beautiful thing about “the beautiful game” is that there is always something brewing year round. After Portugal’s miraculous victory to raise the European championship trophy last month it was seeming as if soccer would be on hold until league play starts in late August.
Thanks to the sponsorship of Guinness Beer, the International Champions Cup has been an annual tournament held primarily on US soil for the last five years. The excitement for international soccer in the States is the opportunity to see their favorite players display their talents in what might be considered as friendly matches. The UEFA champion Real Madrid are arguably the most popular team in the world. American soccer fans are ecstatic whenever Los Galacticos dazzle spectators in the ICC tournament every summer.
The knee injury to arguably the best player on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo was a topic of worry. When the European champions landed in the United States without Ronaldo the question was would they be solid enough to compete with the likes of rival FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and German super power FC Bayern Munich. Real Madrid has been traditionally known to have the world’s best players by way of purchase and youth academy. The summer tournaments give second year manager Zinedine Zidane a good idea of who to promote from the substitutes and academy.
The Spanish power started their US tour with a matchup against French superpower Paris Saint-Germain at Ohio Stadium. PSG was looking to see how their new era without world famous striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic would begin. Ibrahimovic left the French side for the premier league to reunite with his old coach Jose Morinho as the newest addition to the Red Devils of Manchester United. Brazilian defender Marcelo was the only starter from the original eleven to start for Madrid. This move by Zidane gives opportunities to the academy and reserve players to state their case for more playing time. Even though Real Madrid fell to the French side 3-1 with the sole goal coming from Marcelo, there were many bright showings of young talent from the reserves.
The best match for the men from Madrid was against Chelsea FC and their first year manager Antonio Conte. Madrid opened the game firing on all cylinders. Marcelo really showed a boost in confidence when he scored two quick goals shortly after the nineteenth minute. Being a defender and finding ways to score as he did was a good sign for many games to come for Marcelo.
The last of the three goals from Madrid came right before halftime as youth academy youngster Mariano Diaz Mejia turned an assist from Marcelo into an absolutely rocket from outside the eighteen. The strike was the sort you see from world class names such as Cristiano Ronaldo but no, the touch came from a youth player!! Chelsea put two goals in towards the end to finish 3-2 in favor of Real Madrid.
From the ball movement in the first match to the thunderous strike from youngster Mejia against Chelsea, the youth lineup from Real Madrid showed a promising future. Even though there is no shortage of talent on the starting lineup, the breakthrough of young talent gives manager Zinedine Zidane more options to help rest his big stars.
With only a week left of the International Championships Cup, fans world wide have one more chance to tune in and see the spread of youth on the line ups of Los Galacticos. Madrid faces a true test on Wednesday at 7:30 EST when they face German and world power house FC Bayern Munich at MetLife Stadium. The math up is a classic one when former Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti goes head to head with his former assistant now head man Zinedine Zidane. True soccer enthusiasts cannot ask for more.