Friday, June 30, 2006

Thinking about the quarterfinals

Argentina vs. Germany

Loads of potential here. This could be an instant classic. If you live in England where ESPN Classic actually shows soccer. Lucky wankers. Anyway, Germany has proved the doubters wrong not only by winning, but by playing attractive, offensive-minded football. It's a shame that one of these teams will not be able to advance. Argentina certainly has the advantage in depth. The ability to bring on quality like Messi, Tevez, Aimar, et. al is the envy of any nation. Meanwhile, Germany has the advantage of playing in, well, Germany. Klose vs. Ayala will be a joy to behold while some wonder if this is the match when Ballack puts his stamp on the tournament.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Argentina wins with relative ease.

Italy vs. Ukraine

Italy have all the superstarts they could want and still resort to ugly soccer to advance. The dives and whining make me sick. I'll never get the image of De Rossi being "shocked" at his redcard out of my head. It sums up the Italian experience. La dolce vita? No, la acida vita. Here's hoping the stellar Ukriane defense holds firm and does not get robbed a la Australia.

I think they will hold firm - the Ukies win this one and la vita comoda ends for Italia.

England vs. Portugal

Deco's absence will really hurt the Portos. Costinha will be missed as well but Deco's creativity and spark are key to their chances. Maniche and Figo have carried them i nrecent games but I think this is the end of the road. Even if Ronaldo is "fit" England can shut him down. Will Becks & Co. finally get their act together and stop embarrassing themselves with ugly wins? I don't know but they'll win anyway anyhow.

Brazil vs. France

It's 1998 all over again. I'm in Chicago at Patrick's house watching the match with Millicent and Marky while 40 other people enjoy a BBQ outside oblivious to the action on the telly. Ronaldo does not play and Zizou, Petit and Thuram lead the French to an unexpectedly easy win. What's in store for the '06? No Chicago and no easy win. When I watched Brazil beat the Aussies in Munich I thought that they were getting loads of calls. Later, once I was able to read about the match, I was pleased to see that I had been correct. This was not an isolated incident. Brazil supposedly plays the beautiful game but they foul and tackle as hard as Edgar Davids on cocaine. And for some reason, the refs let them get away with it. This keeps the opposition from being able to establish any type of rhythm. I'm hoping that against France it'll be more of a fair fight.

I think it will be - France wins. Just barely.

Germany v Argentina: Preview

Michael Ballack believes Germany have a ``60-40'' chance of beating Argentina in their World Cup quarter-final clash on Friday.

Italy v Ukraine: Preview

Italy coach Marcello Lippi expects his side to prove their critics wrong when they take on Ukraine in Friday's World Cup quarter-final in Hamburg.

England v Portugal: Preview

Frank Lampard expects to be fit for England's World Cup quarter-final clash with Portugal on Saturday.

Brazil v France: Preview

Brazil midfielder Juninho has warned the World Cup quarter-final clash with France should not be seen as a personal battle between Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.

Beckham fires passion in the changing room

Beckham yells and swears!! But with his pretty voice does it make a difference??,,1809496,00.html

We are Frenchmen says Thuram, as Le Pen bemoans number of black players

Lilian Thuram, France's most capped player, last night hit back at suggestions by Jean-Marie Le Pen that there were too many "players of colour" in the national side, denouncing the National Front leader as being ignorant of the make-up of his country's society.,,1809453,00.html

Don't underestimate Italy

And still no one talks of Italy, the team. There's always context or dark clouds: the scandal back home, Gianluca Pessotto's apparent suicide attempt, something.

Arsenal cleared by FA investigation

Terry Butcher's England view

Lawro's quarterfinal predictions

Credit where it's due

England fans, with a few exceptions, are a very different crowd from those who rampaged through European cities in the past.

Italy pull together in the face of adversity,,1809454,00.html

Richard Williams: Eriksson's legacy on the line

Victory this time would allow Eriksson to achieve his minimum ambition of shepherding England to the last four, as well as opening up the opportunity to make it all the way to the summit. However, should a further defeat follow those inflicted by Scolari at the helm of Brazil in the 2002 World Cup and of Portugal in Euro 2004, then Eriksson's appointment in 2001 would
be forever branded by the English as a disappointmentat best and a disaster at worst.,,1809417,00.html

World Cup a big yawn in soccer-hating US

An Aussie explains the "offside rule" for women

From the Aussie husband of a co-worker of my friend's wife:

In preparation for the World Cup, the "offside rule" explained for women:

You're in a shoe shop, second in the queue for the till. Behind the shop assistant on the till is a pair of shoes which you have seen and which you must have. The female shopper in front of you has seen them also and is eyeing them with desire. Both of you have forgotten your purses.

It would be rude to push in front of the first woman if you had no money to pay for the shoes. The shop assistant remains at the till waiting. Your friend is trying on another pair of shoes at the back of the shop and sees your dilemna. She prepares to throw her purse to you. If she does so, you can catch the purse, then walk round the other shopper and buy the shoes!

At a pinch she could throw the purse ahead of the other shopper and "whilst it is in flight" you could nip around the other shopper, catch the purse and buy the shoes!

BUT, you must always remember that until the purse has "actually been thrown", it would be plain wrong for you to be in front of the other shopper, and you would be OFFSIDE!

Some thoughts - off the field

I posted an article that touches on some of these same issues below, but I feel it is worth some additional discussion. I was terribly impressed by the welcoming nature of the Germans, and in particular the Polizei. I've attended numerous matches in the past where the presence of the police only added to the agitation felt by the fans. This was not the case in Germany. The police were actually serving those of us at the matches, in the host cities, and around the country at large. And in the act of serving, they were protecting as well. They were making sure too many people didn't get on the train at once. They were telling people the best line to use to enter the stadium. They were operating information kiosks to facilitate fan interactions and enjoyment in host cities. It is the tone that law enforcement has set that has allowed for such a violence-free tournament thus far.

As for Joe German, he too has been most accommodating. At every train station I entered or arrived, there was a large World Cup Information kiosk set up. I could approach the kiosk, ask anything (where is my hotel?) and receive maps, directions, etc. Those staffing the kiosks were volunteers, eager to help a visiter see the best of their particluar city. It was a great system and worked quite well.

The only time I ever saw the locals get angry was in Munich at a brewhouse that was being overrun by drunk Aussies and Brazilians. Luckily Pat and I had had our fill and were ready to hit the sack when things started to get dodgy. The poor wait staff was overwhelmed and when one table skipped on our wonderful waitress without paying the bill, it was the last straw. So Pat and I left. I hope all ended OK.

The sins of American sportscasting

Thanks to Jeff Klein for going in depth on a subject that I've mentioned before:


Thank God for Univision Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa suck. O'Brien sounds like he's watching a baseball game and Balboa can't start any sentence without stuttering. Maybe since there is so much grease in his hairfarm he'll get electrocuted and we'll be done with him. Why can't American announcers get it right? You don't have to talk all the time. You don't have to explain every damn thing that is going on in the match. Let it flow! And quit using terminology for other sports for soccer. The guy did not take that shot "from three-point land." The goalie's clearance was not "like a pop-fly." Trinidad & Tobago are not trying to "be like George Mason." The two players are not "battling for position in the paint." Come on. Enough.

Some thoughts - on the field

I've been home for a few days now and finally have managed to get my head around some issues and mentally sort my memories and experiences. Let's begin on the field:

England. I watch most of these guys every weekend in the EPL. It is shocking how poorly they have been performing. But the blame has to fall on Sven. He needs to allow the top guys to play in their primary positions and then go from there. All this experimenting is ludicrous. His tactics are simply holding back some of the best players in the world. When you see Gerrard and Lampard blazing over from 10 yards you know they are not comfortable. All the talk about results are what count is bologna. We'll see how they fare against Portugal.

USA. Two teams that are better than them advanced out of the group. End of story.

Mexico. I'm impressed. I gotta say it. They were a joy to watch against Argentina and took perhaps the best team in the tourny to the limit. Marquez was phenomenal in orchestrating the attack AND marshalling the defense. My neighbor Pedro is upset with Lavolpe's tactics but I don't care. I got the best of both worlds: I saw some great soccer and Mexico lost.

Germany. It's the same old story. Mayhem and poor results coming into a major tournament lead to excellent performances and advancement. The Germans are playing with such confidence and flair (yes, I said it) that you'd be hard pressed to write them off any time soon. The match against Argentina should be a classic.

Argentina. Que barbaro! They've managed to mix and match their players into a cohesive unit of great futbol. The only question mark has to be Riquelme. Look for Aimar to play a bigger role against Germany since Riquelme was tiring so much against the Mexicans.

Holland. No Ruud = no goals. Sorry Marco.

Italy. Are you England in disguise? Toni has been attending the Frank Lampard School of Finishing and like England Italy's talent seems to go wasted. Their draw leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Ukraine in the Quarters? It's just not fair. And I'm not even an Aussie.

And the USA crashes out

It was probably bad luck when we saw Frankie Hedjuk before the start of the match. Wearing a Frankie Hedjuk jersey. With his wife and son. Who were wearing Frankie Hedjuk jerseys. We found out it was him when a guy in a Hedjuk jersey walked by and Ivar said, "Hey! Frankie Hedjuk! Do the funny hippie dance!" And the guy turned around and it was Frankie Hedjuk. I got a photo with him -- I'll post it once back Stateside. I know my wife is jealous - he's her least favorite player.

But then I thought it was good luck when I saw a family wearing CALDWELL USA jerseys. Oh well.

Bottom line? The US did OK in a very difficult group. The fact that we did not advance is not a real shocker. With a little bit of different luck things might have been different. But it just wasn't to be.

Big thanks to Alan The Scot from Tucson for giving a ticket to Meredith at face value. Too bad her first soccer game had to be the one where the US got eliminated, but I think we all had a good time. Once again my seat was glorious - tenth row just short of midfield, I believe. Loads of US fans and a few from Ghana. The Ghanians were quite nice and very friendly. Good people. So at least the US went out to a nice country, even if the Ghana players were inventing injuries to waste time.

So I wore my Fuck Bush shirt (photos later) to the match. I got a lot of compliments, which was nice. I also had a bunch of people asking to have their picture taken with me. It was an interesting experience.

More soon! Photos!

Always nice to see a Mexico loss

The stadium in Gelsinkirchen is amazing. The closed the roof because it was drizzling which made the crowd very, very loud. Of course, how quiet is it when the guy ten rows in front of you is banging two frying pans together? Yes, frying pans. If you´re wondering about security, there has been very little. I took by bag with saline solution, razor, cd player, cd book, toothpaste, etc. into the match. The only thing the guy made me take out was a bottle of water. He said I could throw it at someone. I suppose a bottle of water is far more dangerous than a frying pan. Go figure.

Anyway, it was a zoo (per usual) on the train out to the station. Thankfully, everytime you think your´re going to get crushed some savior police officer or train official cuts off the crowd and closes the door. Not before things, get a little nerve-racking, however.

The Mexican fans did the usual chants on the way out but I gotta give them props for an inspired "Deutchland! Deutchland!" in appreciation of our great hosts. The ohter nice one was, "The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire! We don´t need no water let the motherfucker burn! Burn, motherfucker, burn!" That was done in English.

My seats were fabulous as usual - 21st row just shy of midfield. It was a big bummer that Ronaldo and Deco were rested but Figo and co. put on a good display by getting two quick goals and then giving up. Mexico had around 345 chances but only got one goal. Yeah. For a moment it looked like Angola could bust through but it wasn´t to be since they drew with Iran. The poor Portuguese fans were vastly outnumbered. It looked like it was 75% Mexican. At least the Portos could take home a win.

After the match I hightailed it to the station via cab to avoid the mayhem. Money well spent. Two hours later I was in my room in Köln and relaxing with a cold beer (kölsch). Dinner was the Beerman´s skillet and some 19th century brewery. Chicken, steak, sausage, potatoes, vegetables and cheese. Wünderbar!

Tonight? USA and GHANA in Nürnberg!!! My final match and a crucial one for the Yanks. If we win and Italy beats the Czechs we are in like Flynn. Tough but doable.

Stuttgart = drunken Tunisians?

Spain and Tunisia pujt on a nice show. My seats said Row 10 but they were really Row 4. It was fantastic to see Alonso, Cesc, Garcia, Raul, etc. right in front of me. Too bad the hammered Tunisia guy in front of me made me miss Raul´s goal because of his antics like climbing over people with a lit cigarette and scaring the kids all around him. We finally got him kicked out.

The early goal by Tunisia made for a solid contest. The Spaniards were in full voice and I was impressed by the amount of Tunisians. However, they were drowned out by the Espanol in the house. It was a lot easier to get into this stadium than in Munich. Perhaps because there were 25,000 less people to deal with. Anyway, Pat hit the hot springs for some naked R&R coupled with beer drinking whilst I attended the match. Since he booked a room, I decided to join him and bail on the night train to Hamburg and took a morning one bac instead. It was the right move. I needed a bed to rest my weary bones.

Stuttgart has nothing on Munich. It´s pretty boring and architecturally weak but with the WC and nice weather there were plenty of cafes available for relaxing pre-match. We tried some of the local cuisine = some raviolis filled with spicy meat with a creamy sauce. Quite nice and a good break from all the SAUSAGE in my blood.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

And now for the main event

Italy tribunal opens match-fixing trial

Tragic Heroes? - Phil Ball on Spain

Henry: Doubts resurface over pouting showman

Forget the UN, football is the great peacekeeper

Berlin gears up to roar on Germany against Argentina

Team of the departed

Gabriele Marcotti column;_ylt=AjwsiTz_vY1y5Fs6nGmkfRomw7YF?slug=cnnsi-nowthefunbegins&prov=cnnsi&type=lgns

Frank Dell'Apa on the USA

Pompey: Adams in, Johnson joins on loan

Controversial refs Poll and Ivanov dropped

Confident Klose feels for 'unlucky' Argentina

Domenech accuses Spain fans of racism,,1808300,00.html

Hard man Kahn softens in glow of Germany's respect,,1808237,00.html

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Allez France as Zidane and Vieira strike

Oh, I'm sad to see Spain go. They have been playing some nice football - Cesc and Alonso in particular. And Puyol is the ultimate defender. But at the same time it was great to see Zidane play himself off Team Old and in the Way and get to the matchup with Brazil. And an "Adios, culero" is in order for Aragones, the racist lout. I loved it when Vieira told him to keep his mouth shut. In general, it was an enjoyable match, perhaps more so since I dropped the US commentators once again in favor of the Univision. Mucho mejor. So now we've got Brazil and France, the last two winners of the Copa.,,1807586,00.html

Ronaldo tops the charts as rocky Brazil roll on

I've really become anti-Brazil. The sense of entitlement by their fans in Germany was gross. That, coupled with an alarming lack of knowledge of A: their own squad and B: other teams and the tourny in general pissed me off. They only wanted to party and bow beneath their soccer gods. Which isn't bad I guess but I was in "super-serious soccer fan mode" and it didn't sit with me.,,1807555,00.html

Juventus manager tries to kill himself,,1807538,00.html

Ghana accuse the referee,,1807499,00.html

Paul Wilson on the second round

Friendly Germans? Hosts surprise fans with welcome

Roberto Gotta on Mexico

MLS supporters lash out at Arena and league critics;_ylt=AmuO72j_lYkg1f0j_MgYGigmw7YF?slug=ap-wcup-us-defendingmls&prov=ap&type=lgns

The World Cup's Worst Barnets Ever, Ever,,720957,00.html

England are too predictable, says Jose

The Dutch: Bright side of the road to nowhere

Capsules of teams in World Cup's quarterfinals

Henry: I'm not a guy who cheats,,1807677,00.html

A rough guide to Gelsenkirchen

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Phil Ball on Spain

World Cup Today

Italy 1, Australia 0

Once again Italy get lucky and advance. Hey Italy! Are you England in disguise?? Toni missed as many chances as Lampard!

The Roos should have gone on. And once again Marcelo pisses me off by explaining what a great job Grosso did "selling" the penalty. He dove. End of story.;_ylt=Am_32J9MWpcg9JWpDe9Nhvsmw7YF?slug=ap-wcup-italy-australia&prov=ap&type=lgns

Ukraine 0, Switzerland 0, (Ukraine wins shootout 3-0);_ylt=AtG1QgoAqzvf_R0aGdx4.Y8mw7YF?slug=ap-wcup-switzerland-ukraine&prov=ap&type=lgns

Australians cry foul after late penalty call;_ylt=ApElxSihLsiMwZ_58vvwEgcmw7YF?slug=ap-wcup-stunnedaustralia&prov=ap&type=lgns

Aragones opts for Raul, Fabregas v France

Eclectic mix of referees comes with eccentricities;_ylt=AgzlokSD13.JuqD_YgWhRsMmw7YF?slug=ap-wcup-referees&prov=ap&type=lgns

Brazil respecting Ghana -- but not too much;_ylt=An4vre.v6ec8re2IW0cwCuc5nYcB

Gelsenkirchen braces itself for English invasion,,1806587,00.html

Walcott waits, watches and learns,,1806586,00.html

Aragonés will not say sorry,,1806874,00.html

Now pitches blamed for England's poor play

Norman Hubbard on the refs

Monday, June 26, 2006

World Cup Today

England have world stage and how the world laughs

Richard Williams on England's unattractive performances,,1805955,00.html

Rampant bonhomie has broken out - mostly,,1805578,00.html

Fred, his dad, and the blog of all blogs,,1805903,00.html

Grant Wahl column;_ylt=At8ZekEM9z4us0We8aiUmCAmw7YF?slug=cnnsi-criticalreviews&prov=cnnsi&type=lgns

Swiss out to frustrate Shevchenko

Italy braced for Socceroos test

USA: Warning signs

Arena: Unknown destination

Ruud's attention turns to uncertain club future

Blatter shows yellow card to record-breaking ref

Portugal 1-0 Netherlands: Refereeing farce

Beckham's free kick seals England win

Roberto Gotta in Germany

Mexico and Portugal

Gelsinkirchen is God-awful and I´m glad I won´t be here long. Just the match and then I´m out to Köln. The Mexican´s are here and going nuts. Iäm really, really pulling for Portugal even if Ronaldo is a big cry-baby. I just cannot bring myself to like Mexico. Although, I am impressed that a large amount of Mexican´s brought over massive sombreros that I know did not fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

Have not been able to upload any photos - will have to do that later.

Back at home base

Went to Björn´s office yesterday to watch Germany and Ecuador. They had their lounge set up with a big screen and free beer. Yeah, nice office. It was good to watch with few locals as opposed to hundreds or thousands for a change. Since Ecuador decided to gift Germany the match, haveing the ability to converse during the action helped. We then met Simona and Mika for some dinner and watched the street get shut down and turned into a party zone. Everyone was watching England and Sweden and pulling for Sweden. The match was decent and made for a nice way to end the evening.