Monday, May 31, 2010

World Cup Group C Preview

This picture pretty much says it all. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise because deep down, every American soccer fan has been waiting for this moment their entire lives (if you're still alive and kicking from 1950 and actually follow soccer, I salute you). The chance to play England at their own game on the biggest stage. At 234 years, we are one of the oldest independent countries from England's colonial past. And yet, every proud American still relishes an opportunity to poke fun at the bad-teethed Brits as though King George III were still alive today. This rivalry aside, the Yanks' progression to the next round is far from a sure thing...

World Cup Group B Preview

On paper this group looks to be a bit boring. But it's Argentina. It's Diego Maradona. It's the greatest player on this planet. In my book that's more than enough reason to watch. O yeh, and don't forget that if all goes well for Argentina and they win it, Maradona will parade his fat ass naked through the streets of Buenos Aires (and allow fans to blow lines off his chest?)

World Cup Group A Preview

One of the more intriguing groups of the tournament in my mind with hosts South Africa joined by Mexico, Uruguay, and everyone's favorite - France. While nobody gives Bafana Bafana any chance of moving on, including yours truly, France's recent run of play means the final three teams will have a dogfight on their hands to get out of the group.

Led by wily veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco (37 years old), and the young fresh legs of Giovani Dos Santos and Arsenal starlet Carlos Vela, Mexico makes its 7th consecutive appearance in the World Cup. Andres Guardado will also bring his extremely gifted midfield play into the mix. Getting here was a different story - 3 coaches and advancing into the final round of qualifying by overtaking Jamaica on goal difference. They can keep the ball very nicely but will need the young players to step up and finish off scoring chances. You simply can't rely on the old farts to do it for you all the time.

Joining them in the group from the Americas is Uruguay - who qualified in a play-off against Costa Rica for the last World Cup spot allocated to the Western hemisphere. Uruguay could very well be the sleeping giant in this group. Amid a cast of European based players, their front two strikers are arguably the best in the tournament. Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) and Luis Suarez (Ajax) have combined to score over 80 goals this past season. Um, that is a shitload of goals. And how can you not love a team that rocks the powder blue kits? Mission #1 for any other team in this group will be to minimize the amount of Uruguayan goals, which quite nicely brings me to France...

Man, talk about underachievers. This team sucks. With the roster they have, there is no reason they shouldn't be preparing for at least a semi-final birth. Instead, this column is leaving them to scrap to get out of the group. First off, they don't belong here. We all remember Henry's quintuple hand-ball to get France into the tournament - which promptly resulted in numerous offers from the NBA and Globetrotters. They were piss poor in qualifying in a group that featured the likes of Lithuania, Faroe Islands, Romania, and Austria. And on top of all that, they are playing for a man they have no respect for in Raymond Domenech, and that was before the French Football Association announced he'd be fired after the tournement.

And the hosts South Africa!! They may not stand a chance, and they may also force everyone on this planet to watch the games on mute, but at least tune in to watch Steven Pienaar. One of the most underrated wingers in the English Premiership, this guy can flat out play. He will be joined by Benny McCarthy as well - a man with plenty of goals to his name in his career.

HOW IT WILL PAN OUT: At the end of the day, France will find a way through to win the group. They just have to, right?? I like Uruguay to take second. You need to score goals in these tournaments and Uruguay can do that better than anyone else, especially Mexico. Cheers to South Africa. It will be the first time in a while the host team hasn't gotten out of the group stages (I believe our own Yanks did it back in '94). But the national pride and racial barriers this tournament has already knocked down deserve the world's appreciation and they should be commended for it.

GAME OF THE GROUP: You don't have to wait long. Day 1 next Friday. France vs Uruguay.

Rabbi Mourinho

Perhaps his personal note went something like this:


We both know I am special. I am champion. People call me cocky, disrespectful, arrogant, narcissist. Can you strike lightning on them? It hurts my feelings. I have new job in Madrid - but I hate paella. What do I eat? Maybe you can send special meals to my home.

O no I am late for penis snipping! They ask me to mo'yel. Come to games, I give you seat beneath me.

I love you,


Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Brain Dump

Heading into the long Memorial Day Weekend, here's some things to hold you over until Tuesday (*we are only 14 days away from the World Cup!!)

- EURO 2016 - Congratulations to France for being awarded the 2016 Euro Cup. This will also mark the inaugural year of expansion from 16 to 24 teams in the tournament. Some would argue this dilutes arguably the most talented of tournaments when looking at the strength of participating teams top to bottom. Well, of the 8 other teams who would have qualified in Euro 2008 under the future system, 3 are in this year's World Cup (which for a single continent is very impressive). The remaining 5 teams have an average FIFA ranking of 36 - a very admirable average indeed.

Look, every tournament is going to have it's bottom feeders. This World Cup features North Korea, New Zealand, and hosts South Africa (average FIFA ranking of 91). You also have Algeria, Honduras, Slovenia, and Japan -- by no means pushovers but these guys are expected to simply take points from the best teams, not get out of the groups. So if you're going to complain about the "sanctity" of the European Championships being tarnished, give it a break. If Greece could pull that crap in Euro 2004, then adding more teams down the road can only serve to make the tournament more exciting.

- USE YOUR BALLS ON AND OFF THE PITCH- Argentina manager Diego Maradona will allow his players to have sex at the World Cup, but cigar smoking and champagne are strictly off limits. I've got no complaints with this whatsoever. To Martin Palermo, Messi, Demichelis, Tevez, and the rest of the lot, try and stay focused. You still have games to play.



- TALLEST MEN IN FOOTBALL: With Birmingham City's recent purchase of Nikola Zigic from Valencia for £6m, the Serbian center forward becomes the tallest player in the English Premiere League at 6'8. Here's a look at some other goons whose childhood dreams of being the next Andre the Giant took a different course:

Kristof Van Hout - 6'10: His attempts to be Ivan Drago were shot down

Peter Crouch - 6'7: He may give Gumby a run for his money, but this lankster with 95 career goals on the club level (not to mention 21 in 38 appearances for England) rank him as the best of the best of the giants. Um, his fiance ain't too bad either...

Jan Koller - 6'7: This monster's size often works against him. Jump to the video.

Zeljko Kalac - 6'7: Greetings from down under.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

C'mon ESPN, get it right for South Africa

A few things struck me as I watched ESPN's broadcast of the U.S. vs Czech Republic in a friendly on Tuesday evening - actually only 1. American broadcasting of soccer games is HORRENDOUS, even if it's simply the color man in the booth. Poor Adrian Healey - a class act that I commend ESPN for bringing in. What was going through his mind sitting next to John Harkes for 90 minutes is beyond me.

In case you missed the game, there was this: that doofus John Harkes commented in the first half that 4-5 spots were still up in the air (as depth on the bench, but nevertheless a ticket to South Africa), and that Bradley would be taking a close note of the evening's performances, which would heavily weigh on his decision. Fast forward to the second half. Harkes followed that up by saying the game was a formality. It didn't matter who had played well. Bradley made up his mind before the opening whistle.

Call me picky. Tell me I'm reading too much into it. But I love this sport too much to ignore the fact that American broadcasting of the national team is holding the game back in this country for the neutral fan. We can divide this country into 2 groups: the uneducated sports fans (those that use thunder sticks or clappers, wear the same color in arenas) and the educated sports fans (everyone else, and I'll throw in the rally towels). But one thing both groups value above all else when they can't see a game live, is that the man they are listening to on TV is a knowledgeable professional for that sport. A self-deprecating man who can appeal to any level of fan. It's why we all love the team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson during the playoffs. And why we HATE Joe Buck and Tony Kornheiser during his stint on MNF. Soccer is not our sport. As a result, the rambling idiots who call it in this country don't know how to do it. BUT THAT'S OK.

ESPN has already brought in Martin Tyler for the entirety of the World Cup (they even gave the man his own commercial!!). Do us all a favor, put Andy Gray next to him or some other Brit. There is no shame in making the World Cup the best possible experience for American viewers - even if it means leaving the Yanks out of the booth.

Landon Donovan ESPN Sportscenter commercial

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The myth about Tim Tebow's girlfriend

I'm sure all of you have seen the above picture of Tim Tebow and his "girlfriend." While it's practically impossible to make eye contact with her (in case you need some help), I happened to fall upon an exciting tidbit.

That young lady in the bottom right with the string and pieces of brown cloth covering her kids, is the great Lucy Pinder - the newly crowned best British Breasts by The Sun.

Let's give her a round of applause for this well deserved honor.
(What does this have to do with soccer? Absolutely nothing of course. I just wanted to give you a taste of one of the many great qualities of European media apart from its soccer reporting)

Finally, a worthy adversary

So Jose Mourinho is on his way to Spain. And in case you were wondering about Manuel Pellegrini, don't worry. Mr. Perez remembered he still had a manager and sacked him this afternoon. Let me digress for a moment to clarify something regarding the title of this very first blog of mine. I do not want anyone to think for a second that Pellegrini was not a worthy adversary. I have always respected and admired his managerial style especially with Villareal, where he implemented a Wenger-like, quick passing, possesion style of play. He brought Real Madrid to an unprecedented finish of 96 points. Going into the final day of the season, Real had won 18 of 19 games giving Barcelona no chance to slip up. But 2 losses to their arch rivals, and a 6th consecutive exit in the round of 16 in the Champions League buried any chance of his return. It wasn't enough, and in some ways, you always knew whatever he accomplished wouldn't be.