Monday, June 19, 2006

WC: Straight Shooting (I)

A few thoughts from the second set of matches of the WC ’06

How many touches do you need to score a goal? In the previous round, Germany scored a goal from almost midfield on one touch (throw in and shot), Saudi Arabia covered the field from coast to coast on three touches (on Sami Aljaber’s strike), both goals among the best of the tournament. But no goal (maybe in the history of soccer) compares to Argentina’s second against S&M. Keep in mind the game was still close and S&M was still playing with 11 and defending hard. From the minute Riquelme stripped the ball to his defender around the top of their own box, there were 26 consecutive players touching the ball before it was in the goal. 26 passes with no player touching the ball more than twice and no player keeping the ball for more than two seconds. The back heel from Crespo was touch number 25- un-freaking-interrupted - before Cambiasso struck it home. Simply, a joy to watch.

It appears like every soccer injury that occurs on the field, no matter how much pain the player seems to be in, is curable either by a squirt of water or that spray can.

It seems rather offensive to have a team captain named (Milosevic). It is the equivalent of having a player named (Hitler) leading the German attack. On the bright side S&M gave us the most embarrassing performance of the tournament

Some of the most intriguing games of the world cup are those with historic reflections: like colonies playing their old occupiers (Angola/Portugal), Spain versus the Arabs reenacting (La Reconquista) and the battle of Granada (Arabs got crushed after apparant early victories) , and especially those World War II “rematches” which provided one of the few reasons to watch Germany vs. Poland (thanks for coming to the cup Poland, you really left a mark). And then, there is an outside shot of an England/Germany face off in the second round. Let’s see if the weak English defense can handle another Blitzkrieg.

Reason 433 to hate England (a.k.a. the root of all evil): 1.9 million dollars were wagered on the games in Britain. Some of those bets were definitely placed in favor of the below-average English team. But it seems like the world has to wait a little longer before enjoying the misery of those arrogant bastards. Maybe even after the round of sixteen.

There is no way anyone is taking Ecuador seriously. If we consider their two less-than-impressive wins against Poland and Costa Rica (you too, thanks for coming), their goalkeeper and his painted face, and the worst celebration in the history of sports (the fact that the yellow Spiderman/Tweety mask came out of the crotch of a player who has been running around for more than an hour, only to watch him slip it on his head is just disgusting), they are not on the same level of Germany and not even England.

Speaking of celebrations: Even before Ghana’s No. 15 whipped out that rag representing the zionist flag out of his sock (he did not even score so he should not be allowed to have his customized celebration), I thought of a headline-making celebration: A Saudi player scores and takes off his shirt revealing a Bin Laden picture printed on his undershirt, while various Saudi officials are having multiple heart attacks.

More proof that life is not fair: TnT/England, Brazil/Australia, Ivory Coast/Holland.

There is no reason that countries within distant time zones should ever host the world cup. It is really more enjoyable when games are watched at a human-friendly time, other than staying up until 3 a.m. in the morning to catch the kickoff. All hosts have to be within 3 hours of the GMT.

Some impressive players from the last round: Giovanni Van Bronckhorst(5) (great defensive effort), , Robin van Persie (17) /Holland (best use of a chest since...(censored)), Ze Roberto(11) , Robinho (23) (should start infront of Ronaldo, that will give Ronaldo a better chance to get his 3 goals and the record) /Brazil. Emmanuel Adebayor(4)/ Togo (you would think he is a “find” if he is not already signed with Arsenal), Michael Essien(8)/Ghana, Sorin(3)/ Argentina (best flanking back, way better than the aging Roberto Carlos and Cafu) and Anis Ayari(19)/ Tunisia (beyond his defensive effort (Tunisia’s defense suffered after he left), he gets credit for the (A)’s carved on both sides of his head).

Goats of the round: Italian defender Zaccardo(2) own goal (the Italian backline may be more vulnerable than usual with two newcomers Zaccardo and Grosso, although they did not allow an american shot on target), the whole Czech team (very disappointing), the whole S&M team (embarrassing), Fabien Barthez (could have done better on the tying goal, and looks shaky. Also Gallas (5) could have done like England’s John Terry and gave a better effort on saving the ball).

Here is a simplified French guide on the chances that we will watch the legend of Zidane play in one more world cup game (he is suspended against Togo):
France wins by at least two goals. (France advances)
France wins by at least one goal, Swiss or S.Korea wins (France+Winner advance)
France wins 1-0, Swiss /Korea tie (with any score) (Swiss+S.Korea advance)
France wins 2-1, Swiss /Korea tie (0-0) (Swiss+Coin toss)
France wins 2-1, Swiss /Korea tie (any score more than 0-0) (Swiss+Korea)
(Conclusion: In case the Swiss and Korea tie, France must score at least two goals, and an extra goal for every goal Korea scores (if Frances's winning margin is only one goal), just to force a coin toss).

Some deciding games from other groups round based on the absence of huge upsets (like Japan beating Brazil or SA beating Spain): Australia/Croatia (winner advances, tie Australia advances), Ukraine/Tunisia (winner advances, tie Ukraine advances) , everybody is still alive in Group E (Italy misses only if they lose) and as expected the potentially most exciting game of the first round (Argentina/Holland) is meaningless. A second round game between Holland/Portugal will be a chance for the Dutch to avenge their euro 04 loss.

There was an exaggerated overreaction to the cards issued by the referee of the Italy/USA. I think the ref did a very good job and most importantly he was consistent, unlike what he was accused of being arbitrary. The first Italian player threw an elbow that caused three stitches and a plate inserted into America’s Brain McBride(20) grill, and De Rossi(4) must face multiple-game suspension. The Americans played with excessive roughness all game (they misunderstood "team toghness" as roughness) and has to be kept in check. Mastroeni’s (4) tackle that caused his immediate ejection could be interpreted as (with intention to injure) since it was a two-foot tackle, similar to that of Kuzman(8) against Argentina that was disciplined in the same manner. The ejection of Pope (23) could be a little harsh but he already earned his first yellow card anyway. Despite the seemingly large number of cards, and the unfair issue of some of them (it is a judgement call after all), I think that the excessive cards are good for later rounds, since the regulation committee seems determined to protect the players and the games from being extra rough which kills the action.

Sweden/Paraguay, Japan/Croatia, Mexico/Angola, better off watching paint dry. Zzzzzzzz.

The other judgment call seems to have its ugly head poking out again. I do not have any conclusive visual evidence but there is a chance that van Nisterlooy game winner, Ronaldinho entry pass to Ronaldo that resulted in the first goal and broke the game open , and Fred’s goal on the rebound, all could be offsides.

To be delivered at Western Amman/Jordan,
A short letter to the casual fan, that extra enthusiastic, face painting, bandwagon jumper,seasonal, obnoxious stupid idiot:
Dear Poser,
The world cup is not a event where you can practice your shameless outrageous behavior. Acts of public display of idiocy should not be done in the name of sporting events. You make it an embarrassment for self-respecting people to follow sports even though they like it and consider it a civilized means of entertainment. There is no extra personal emotional value stored in sporting events for you, unless your close family members are competing. So please pick up your Brazilian flag, stop screaming in my ear, call No. 15 and No. 6 from Ghana, and go die.


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