As an odd number year, there hasn’t been a World Cup or European Championship this summer. While there has been a Confederations Cup and various youth competitions, there’s still been plenty of appetite for more football. And so the first Star Sixes competition was created. Hosted at the 02, it featured 12 countries, including half who come from a nation that have won the World Cup – Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In China, Denmark, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal and Scotland there was mostly solid representation too. The even ran for four days, with three groups of four teams. The top two from each group and then the two best third placed teams went through to the quarter-finals. Each team had 11 players in their squad, with only 6 allowed on the field at the same time.
With tickets for both semi-finals, the third place play-off and the final it meant I saw four games. As England, Italy and Germany were among the teams not to make it that far, it meant I missed out on seeing players like Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Alessandro del Piero and most disappointingly, Michael Ballack. The latter has long been my favourite ever players. But with Spain, France, Brazil and Denmark there were still plenty of quality players left. The first semi-final ended with a 5-2 win for France over Spain. The victorious captain and former Arsenal legend Robert Pires was interviewed.
The second semi-final took place between Brazil and Denmark, with the the dark horse Scandinavians surprisingly winning 4-2. In order to give Brazil a bit of a break before their play-off there was some added entertainment. This included a penalty shoot out with a tricky spinning taking place before the kick, an interview with England captain Steven Gerrard and extra shirts being shot out of a gun cannon. In the last game before the final, tournament favourites Spain thrashed a chaotic Brazil side by the remarkable score of 11-3. After much demand from the crowd former Real Madrid Brazilian icon Roberto Carlos came on for the final two minutes.
The final was a tight affair with little in it. Two of the tournament’s best players, France’s Ludovic Guily and Denmark’s Chris Sorensoyouri djorkaeffn again stood out for each side, with the former grabbing the opening goal. It was cancelled out by Daniel Jensen, before Youri Djorkaeff scoring the winning goal with a neat driven finish.
Before France were crowned inaugural champions of the Star Sixes tournament, the prizes for best player (Denmark’s Chris Sorensen) and top goalscorer (Spain’s Michel Salgado) were given out. Denmark also received their well-earned runners up medals. Hosting the tournament the same weekend as the British Grand Prix and the final weekend of Wimbledon seemed an unusual choice and may have accounted for the lack of full capacity. But there was still plenty of competitive action, skillful play, great goals and sprinkling of footballing stardust to make it a fun time out.