Wednesday, June 14, 2006

WC: The First Annual World Cup Awards

Handing out first stage first round awards while trying to figure out: When Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago played, how did they all fit on the same field?

The world cup first round takes forever. I still think that raising the number of teams from 24 to 32 solved some problems (more seats for Asia and Africa, no best-thirds qualifying to the second round), but it is almost impossible for a functional human being to watch every minute of every first round game. After a first look at every team here are my first stage, first round, first annual awards:

The 1990 World cup and its all-time low 2.2 goals/game average award for the ultimate snooze fest: Too many games and too many candidates. Even the opening game that featured 6 goals had big dead times (between the 20-65 absolutely nothing happened), but that is a part of the game. England/Paraguay, Ecuador/Poland, Mexico/Iran were a waste of time. But the award goes to Portugal/Angola,(Figo) still has some gas left in his tank, but this game was as exciting as watching grass grow. I guess Group D is the true group of (slow) death.

The late Andreas Escobar award for “I am going to live, right? It was just an own goal in the first round, and I did not mean it! It is not only my fault, I can't get shot!!” : Paraguay’s captain 4(Carlos Gammara), who was trash-talking the English before the game calling them the third best team in the group and questioning Beckham manhood (who doesn’t?), only to deflect one of Beckham’s infamous free kicks into his own goal. That cost his team a valuable point, against a flat English team in a tough group. On the other hand, if you are Paraguay and you just gave an own goal and lost your starting keeper in the first ten minutes of the first game, the odds are you are not going too far this year.

The Taribo West award for the most bizarre hair-do: Some trends that were thought of as weird when they first appeared are considered normal: the long curly hair (Argentina’s Aimar and Sorin), the pony tail no matter how atrocious (Italy’s Camoranesi) and even the ridiculous Beckham's mohawk and the mullet mohawk variation (Spain’s Torres and Germany’s Klose) are nothing weird. Some of the most annoying hair styles so far are :
21(Wilhelmsson)/Sweden: obviously he decided to get rid of his mullet before the cup and maybe thought it is too valuable to lose it all together, so he left a single strand of hair hanging from the left side of the back of his head.
9 (Kone) /Ivory Coast: is sporting the should-be illegal blond-hair-on-an-African player look, made famous by the-thank-god-he-is-injured only for the ugliness of his hair Cisse. Actually the whole Ivory Coast had an assortment of bad hair styles: (Flattened long hairs (3), grey-dyed afros (18)…), and their team did not play all that great against Argentina.
20 (Loco) /Angola: is still hung on the extinct shaved head with a long front. The front is extra long and glued to his forehead. Unacceptable.
9 (Takahra) /Japan : a variation of the Beckham mohawk. It is very thin, it starts from the middle of the top of his head and it is dyed some shade of red. We may have a winner here.
5(Cambiasso) /Argentina : is not trying to pull any look off, and that is his problem. I understand that balding is natural and incurable but you have to make a decision soon, and cannot keep the little hairs in the front with longer sides. It may work for a butcher or a baker but it is not a professional look for a soccer player.
3(Karim Hagguai) /Tunisia: If you look closely above his left ear, he has too concentric curved lines carved into his head and curving around his ear. Unnecessary.
14 (Lee Chun-Soo) /South Korea: Average hair length that is bleached almost white. The roots are still black along with a cheesy, I-just-hit-puberty mustache which looks to be bleached as well. Ladies and gentlemen the most disturbing look of the year.

The 1990 Sergio Goycochea award for the substitute goalie who comes out of nowhere to lead his team to the promise land: 1(Shaka Hislop) of Trinidad & Tobago. After Argentina’s starting keeper (Pumpido) broke his leg in the opener Goycochea fills in, shuts out Brazil in the second round, blocks two PKs against Yugoslavia, another two gainst Italy (in shootouts) and almost gets to Andreas Brehme cup winning cheap PK. Hislop is not going to take TnT that far but they could sneak into the second round after the courageous showing against Sweden. This team plays hard and they have 19(Dwight York) anchoring their defense, after years of anchoring Man U’s front line. Plus, if you have an IV league education (Hislop played at Brown University, studied Mechanical Engineering and interned with NASA) you have to win an award here.

The 2002 Sweden/Senegal award for the game that dramatically exceeds expectations: Australia/ Japan. The winner of this game is a candidate to join Brazil out the group, which was one of the few reasons to tune in. The result was the best game of the first round: after the tying Aussie goal in the 83’ Japan responded with two scoring chances before Australia added two more goals to cap the most exciting ten minutes of the cup. Tunisia/Saudi Arabia was as dramatic in its last ten minutes and could have won at least a split of the award, but our editors discriminate against Arabs. There were a few decent games during the opening round (Brazil/Croatia, Argentina/Ivory Coast, maybe Holland/S&M), but none compares to the above game, which could have been better if…

The (Masri-ya-7akam : calling a referee “Egyptian” to describe his lousy calls and to imply potential bribery, a Jordanian tradition based on the Basketball gold medal game against Syria in the 1992 Arab Games) award for refereeing incompetence: coincidently goes to the Egyptian referee of Japan/Australia. Al-Fatah helped ruin a great effort by both teams. On Japan’s first goal number 9(Takahara) and 13(Yanagisawa) combined to completely block the keeper, actually almost tackled him, and screened him off getting to the crossed ball. Later on an obvious make-up no-call, he denies number 3 (Komano) a probable PK after he gets violently taken down by 4(Cahill, the hero of the game more for this tackle than his two goals) moments after Australia’s tying score. Other candidates for bad calls include Ecuador’s second goal against Poland (offside), TnT’s 3(Avery John) ejection against Sweden (too harsh) and Spain’s PK with 17(Vashchuck) ejection to start the second half (Cheap 9(Torres) dive).

The surprised/screwed husband award for the recipient of an overwhelming gift that caught him unprepared (WOW honey, you got me a car for Christmas! Mmmm, I made you a mixed tape and a sock bunny) : Mexico/Iran pre-game flag exchange. Iran’s captain presented the Mexican captain with a huge picture frame that contains a Persian rug or something of that nature, along with a blue velvet box, and he whispers something to him. The surprised Mexican player gives him, well, a flag. A cheap-looking plastic "thingie" that has the Mexican colors, and the minute (Ali Daei) grabs it, a little piece of white rope falls out and drops right in front of him.

The genius couch potato award for second guessing professional coaches who are managing world class teams goes to The following two comments:
-So, the guy is the Italian Series-A second leading scorer last year, and he is a proven scorer on the international level (31 goals in 61 caps) and you could not find some playing time for David Trezeguet in a 0-0 game, but you think it is a good idea to play Vikas (the French are catching up to outsourcing), and now you have not scored in the world cup in the last four games.-
-So, you are representing too splitting countries and your backline is your strength, and you decided it is a good idea to play an offside trap right at mid field to start the game against a super fast Robben and Dutch team. It was almost broken in the first minute, and minutes later it was actually broken for the game winner, and now there is even a smaller chance of a S&M vs. TnT match up in the quarterfinals for the first soccer doubles ever.

The Jordan TV award for the worst coverage of a sporting event: ESPN. The self-declared World wide leader in sports is providing a terrible experience for the soccer fan who is forced to watch through them. They are constantly missing little details (no pre-game line-ups, no mention of the names of the refereeing crew, ignores substitutions, constant talking over live action, constant discussion of the American team). They are constantly trying to accommodate the American casual fan (who is NOT watching), using farfetched baseball and basketball analogies. The commentators and studio analysts are terrible. On the bright side it is relatively free (with cable). A few notes from the world wide leaders and their commentators:

During Iran/Mexico game: “When Iran beat the U.S. in 98, women were removing their scarves in public” awkward pause “that is unheard of”. (Straight out ignorant and insensitive, along with constant unnecessary political references to Iran during a soccer match).
Togo/South Korea game: “I am not sure how tall this player is but he looks like he is 6-13, laugh, Oh I mean 7-1. (The player was 2(Nibombe) and he is 6-5, and I guess the 6-13 was supposed to be a joke)
During Brazil/Croatia game: “They say in Brazil soccer is like a religion. No disrespect”, the other genius follows up “of course the statues of Christo is overlooking the whole country. You should see it when you visit.”
During Angola/Potugal game: “Cristiano Ronaldo has more moves than Mariah Carey.” (I am not even sure what that means since Mariah Carey is not known for her dancing).
During Holland/S&M nobody ever mentions the absence or even references the absence of the Dutch star player 10 (Van der Vaart). I find this annoying.
After the opening game the crew moves to the inside the studio mini-field so that Eric Wynalda can re-enact Germanys first goal! Wynalda a former U.S. “star” is in a complete formal suit, while the other host assumes the goalie position with his legs wide while his knees are squeezed in a stance that screams “please don’t kick it in my crotch”. After Wynalda blabbers forever causing the host to move aside from the goal, he dribbles a weak ball that looks nothing like Germany's first goal that ripped the 90 degree corner of the Costa Rica goal.

And they have a girl doing studio analysis (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

The Bin Laden/ Gas prices award for the thing that most annoys the average American casual fan : A split between the offside, and the stretcher on the field. Just like Filippo Inzaghi, American fans will never understand the offside rule and will never accept it. Seriously, What is the point? Referees has problems correctly calling it, fans and players hate it, and the offside trap is the cheapest scheme ever invented. How do you think the first striker who was all alone, because the defenders moved up not because he moved in, felt?
Also, American’s feel offended when a player leaves on a stretcher and jogs back into action seconds after reaching the sidelines. It makes sense. When Germany's 8(Frings) leaves on a stretcher, comes back and within a second and rips the best goal in the cup from almost midfield, you have to feel that something is wrong. Any player who leaves on a stretcher should do the Jan Koller thing and let them carry him all the way to the locker room.

The Michael Owen award for the star who is prematurely announced “the best in the world”: These are the players who were very impressive in the opening game, and I hope they do not fade away, resembling Owen’s soccer career:
11(Arjen Robben) /Holland: He was very active and all the Dutch play went through him. I have to agree with his teammate 17(van Persie) that Robben was a little selfish and could have set up his teammates better but he played a good game.
11(Pavel Nedved) /Czech Republic: He made a great decision to play in this cup. He was very dynamic and moved a very impressive team.
10(Tomas Rosicky) /Czech Republic: Very dynamic in the front with an accurate strong shot. I hope he keeps it up against better teams.

The David Copperfield award for the best disappearing act: Did (Ronaldo) play against Croatia, what about (Ronaldinho) ? I must have missed them. (They can thank Kaka for saving face). Has anybody seen the French frontline? and does (Wiltord) know he is starting? Did sitting on the bench at Bayern Munich affect (Ali Karimi) negatively or he just does not care anymore? (Zalatan) actually helped the other team more than his teammates, and I know Spain was dominant, but (Shevchenko) could have taken a shot or something. I hope all those stars have better second games. It is too early.

The 1990 UAE award for an overmatched team in a tough group: USA, who registered the first truly one sided game of the first round, and could leave the cup without a single point based on the game Italy/Ghana played. (Ghana actually competed hard but without really threatening. Italy scored on one of few chances and capitalized on 4(Kuffour)’s error, but they have some fresh blood in their lineup and looked fine too). Ukraine could compete for this award too after getting embarrassed by Spain but they have a better chance to rebound in their group. The conclusion is that it was about time FIFA decided to reconsider the “world rankings” system that had USA ranked at fifth best in the world.

The unidentified awkwardly superstitious trend award: The number (3). If you are a player, especially a defender, wearing the number 3, you should ask to change your number or ask to be scratched from the starting lineup. Just check out some of these misfortunes and mistakes:
3(Arne Friedrich)/Germany single handedly, (Okay, him and the timid Arsenal keeper, bring back Kahn) are responsible for both the Costa Rica’s goals. He was caught breaking the offside trap and he could not catch up to 9(Wanchope) despite his good speed.
3(Avery John)/TnT was sent off (maybe unjustly so) against Sweden, but his team bailed him out and held up for the biggest surprise of the first round.
3(Jamba)/Angola gets turned around ridiculously on a Figo run that resulted in the only chance and goal in the whole game. Angola could have stolen a tie.
3(Yuichi Komano)/Japan failed to clear the side throw after his keeper misjudged it, instead he slid and trapped the ball under him, to have it pop back to the Australian anticipating player for the tying goal. He was later denied what appeared to be a PK on his backline run and of course he was burnt and turned around by 15( John Aloisi) to give up the third Australian goal. (and by the way Yuichi, please tell Teruyuki and Seiichiro that it is impossible to read words that has three successive vowels.).
3(Ruda Tukar)/ Saudia Arabi cleared a cross to with his head to the middle (a basic mistake) to have it bounce of the back of his teammate right in front of 5(Jezeiri) who finished it in on a great semi volley. Of course Number 3(Haggui) of Tunisia was the last defender on the second Saudi goal, and got turned around a bit, but it was not his fault anyway. The Saudis made a great play there, covering the whole field in less than four passes.
3(Jean- Paul Abalo)/ Togo get sent off against Korea. The ensuing free kick is the tying goal and Togo end up losing the game and any possible precious points

The lesson is as always, I need a hobby. (I am kidding this is my hobby).

The Roger Miller Samba dance award for goal celebration excellence: Obviously players are saving their best choreography for the later stages when the stakes are higher, but the best so far goes to 4(Tim Cahill)/Australia, who after his late tying goal, ran to the corner and air punched the corner flag a few times before ducking under. Togo’s primal squirrel group dance is in second place. The worst celebration is Roberto Carlos piggy back ridding his teammate after Brazil’s lone long shot goal. Saudia Arabi group bow was emotional but cannot be considered here because it is praying gesture more than a celebration.(Speaking of celebrations, I was hoping that the latest English overrated flavor of the month 21(Peter Crouch) would score just to make fun of his advertised celebration move (The Robot). Seriously?! Why not the worm? That is so original and hip. And by the way if I were a stick figure journeyman at the age of 25 with all of 7 caps under my belt, I would shut up and play and forgrt about arguing with referees. You got to hate the English.)

The US Weekly Fashion Police award for wardrobe investigation:
The award goes to those who were committed to their classic colors, offering a throwback look (France, Argentina, Spain, Japan). Too many teams featured too much yellow in their uniforms which was not very pleasant to look at (Sweden (should have mixed in more blue), Ukraine, Togo). The yellow color worn by Australia (yellow shirt, green shorts, yellow socks) was less cornea-burning than others. Ecuador tried to offset the yellow by a differently-colored single sleeve (a fashion crime invented by Nike). In addition Ecuador was the only team to wear tri-colors (yellow shirt, blue short, red socks) which does not look good (plus Ecuador colors looks like Venezuela, Peru and Columbia, they should have been more creative).
The uni-color (from head to toe) trend was dominant and annoying, especially for teams who wore all orange (Ivory Coast and Holland) or all bright maroon (Portugal).
The Apparel providers were as follows:
Puma: (12)
dressed more teams than anyone else. All teams shared a similar classic design with two pumas on the shoulders with the different teams colors (maybe with the exception of Italy).
Poland, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Angola, Togo, Czech Republic, Iran, Italy, Paraguay (purple blue atrocious color that looked like pajamas), Switzerland, Ghana.
Nike: (8) allowed teams to customize a little more. Also, Nike provided a cool checkered Goalkeeper suit (probably inspired by Dutch club Feyenoord Rotterdam or England's Blackburn Rovers).
Mexico, Holland (polo collar), USA (red stripe in the middle of all navy), Croatia (the usual picnic tablecloth), Portugal, Australia, South Korea (the red orange unidentified color), Brazil.
Adidas: (6) The brand of choice for teams who wanted to go the classic, which looked better than everyone else.
Germany, Spain, Japan, France, Argentina and Trinidad &Tobago (the first team to ever wear baggy shorts on a soccer field, and that will be enough for them to be in the second round).
Umbro: (2)
England (a nice classic look with a strange half collar), Sweden (similar design with no collar).
Lotto: (2) Similar design for their two customers that has multiple offset color wedges in a circular distribution that extends to the shorts (go find a picture).
Serbia & Monte Negro, Ukraine
Joma: (1)
Costa Rica looks like they elected for the cheap. The colors look good but the keeper has a white and purple stripe on an all black suit!
marathon: (1)
Ecuador chose a provider that does not have a website and they need to get rid of the triple colors.

So, until the round of sixteen rolls in, I am only watching significant games, and unless something big happens, (like that stupid Jumbotron hanging from top of Frankfurt Stadium drops on a couple of players and a ref, or another drunk Croatian runs on the field (this time actually stabbing somebody), I am not interested in the world cup till then.


Velazquez said...

On you "apparel providers list" MEXICO is missing amongst the Nike teams. ¿Que paso?

hareega said...

abu shreek man this is a great great post, keep these coming ya zalameh btenfa3 teshtaghel bil ESPN badal hal 7ormah elli jaybeenha (nothing wrong in that :D )

Abu Shreek said...

honest mistake homes.
thanks for pointing it out.
Hasta la victoria siempre.

I am glad my trageted
"readership" liked it.

3:11 AM

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