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World Cup post-mortem part 3: The Final: Spain’s fear, Holland’s fouls July 11, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in World Cup 2010.
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Somewhat unfairly, the name of the 2010 World Cup final will become a byword for infamy, it seems. Certainly, with the first word having come from the Guardian’s puzzlingly influential Richard Williams, it seems likely the red card for Johnny Heitinga and the cynical fouls of Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong will be the salient images of the match.

In a way, that’s only fair. After all, at the very least, this final dispensed decisively with two myths of international football: the Dutch national team’s penchant for winning friends with attractive soccer and the exhilarating football played by the Spanish national team. The less mystique that surrounds teams inappropriately, the better, I think. Now, if only someone could ram it into the international zeitgeist that Brazil has actually spent much of the time since 1982 playing functional, sexless soccer, and that that isn’t Dunga’s fault, we’d be truly refreshed.

It’s also unfair, though. A friend of mine who could only catch the end of the second half and the extra period sent me a text message calling it “a fun game to watch.” When I accused her of sarcasm, she was genuinely confused. “I thought it was really exciting and fun to watch!” And this is someone who has never watched a soccer match before. So much for turning off the Americans wooed by this World Cup.

It really did become more exciting, too, once Vicente del Bosque introduced Cesc Fabregas into the lineup. Suddenly, he stumbled upon the midfield he should have been using throughout the entire tournament: one with Fabregas and Xavi in front of Sergio Busquets in the center. Fabregas gave Spain the pinch of penetration in the center it has lacked throughout the tournament. I mean, if Busquets as the lone defensive midfielder is good enough for Barcelona, it’s probably good enough for Spain.

Spain was genuinely attractive between the introduction of Fabregas and Fernando Torres’ injury. There was also intrigue and the very satisfying departure of a Dutch player, even if Heitinga was one of the least dirty Dutchmen on the pitch.

Williams is, however, correct in his lament: “No more all-European finals, thank you very much.” As I’ve said before, all the romance is taken out of the World Cup when the teams from the other continents are eliminated. This final contained 10 starting players who have, at one point or another, been under contract at Barcelona, plus the substitute Fabregas. Soul-crushing, if you ask me, and I’m a Barcelona fan. More than half of the starting 22 have played in Champions League finals. These are the usual suspects from a tournament that usually turns up so much more that is memorable.

That wasn’t the fault of the final game itself, and the American television commentators didn’t help by banging on about how boring it all was. It was the fault of a poor call between Brazil and the Netherlands that gave the Dutch a game-winning free kick, a bat off the line by Luis Suarez, the failure to allow Paraguay to retake a spot-kick against Spain, the award of a pretty dubious goal for Argentina against Mexico. Arguably at least. It’s been a World Cup of disappointments, sure, but it’s had its moments. We just chose to accentuate the negative.

As it is, though Spain has confirmed its newfound emergence as a legitimate soccer power with its victory, it would be only just to remember Luis Aragones’ European Championship-winning side of two years ago as a better football team. Carlos Marchena may not be or have been as immaculate a central defender as Gerard Pique, but Spain would have looked much better with an on-form Marcos Senna’s balls (and I don’t mean “passes”) in midfield and the terrifying prospect of a fit Torres leading the line, not to mention a more dynamic David Silva rather than the incomplete Jesus Navas or the schizophrenic Pedro. Spain 2008 simply had more style than Spain 2010, more elegance. The current Spain is attritional.

It’s as if the current Spaniards spent the tournament living cowering under the weight of their two-year-old legacy. All, that is, except the perpetually fearless Carles Puyol and, Andres Iniesta once he somehow managed to liberate his soul as the final drew to a close.

Which Spain will arrive in Poland and Ukraine in two years? That could be the most interesting story in international soccer in the coming years.

World Cup post-mortem part 2: preview of the third place game. July 10, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in World Cup 2010.
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Who cares about it?

(More after the jump) (more…)

Ballack disconsolate at Germany win. June 23, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in World Cup 2010.
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33-year-old Ballack, described by mother Karin as "a crybaby" and "a weenie."

Germany’s win over Ghana may have brought much of the winning country to raptures, but there was at least one German who plunged into tears after the final whistle.

“Boo hoo hoo,” 33-year-old Michael Ballack wept. “Nobody loves me!”

The reason for Ballack’s distress? Ghana midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng hurt him “real, real bad” in a May 15 kickabout near the Gorlitz native’s London home.

“I thought [Germany’s players] were my friends,” Ballack moaned between sobs. “But nobody got Prince back. He was so mean.”

Ballack said he expected a German player to pretend convincingly to misplace a soft pass in Boateng’s direction, only for another player, probably substitute Marcell Jansen, to lunge two-footed through the Portsmouth midfielder’s ankles.

Karin Ballack, Michael’s mother, said her son called her after the final whistle, but all she could here were disconsolate sobs.

A few words on the USA game: “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” and also “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” June 23, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in U.S. soccer, World Cup 2010.
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I fell victim to a non-functioning alarm clock this morning, so I only only woke up in time to see the goal. I’m kind of jealous of the catharsis all you USA fans out there must have experienced. I know at least one USA fan, the other contributor to this blog in fact, who certainly felt that.

Here’s a text message he sent me at 7:21 a.m., right after Clint Dempsey’s goal was chalked off.

Doody!

Here’s the text of a second message he sent me at 8:38, seven minutes from time.

Bouts to cry

And here’s the text of a blog post he began soon after the game. He didn’t finish it. Who could blame him? How can you explain that emotion? I mean, probably like this:

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

did i mention, YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

(more…)

Spain scores but Iker still looks like doodoo June 21, 2010

Posted by michaeltomlinson in Spanish soccer, Uncategorized, World Cup 2010.
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David Villa minutes after blasting a 35 yard shot off the cross bar found the back of the net. Strategically cutting between 2 Honduran defenders and beating the last with a sliding finish into the top corner giving the tournament one of it’s best goals. despite the quick start from the Barcelona/Real Madrid spit squad Iker Casillas continued is peculiarly bad ways. Early on he again broke up an attempt by choosing to use his feet once more, the same tactic which could be blamed for the Swiss’s only goal. It isn’t just that his physical goal keeping has been struggling but his psychy seems a bit shot and  his control over the defensive positioning is lacking from what you’d expect a top keeper to portray. But alas it is in the 37th minute and Spain is up 1-0. A couple more goals leading up to the vital contest vs Chile could be useful heading into a probable 3 way tie  on 6 points.

From the DPRK news wire: DPR Korea cruising toward sporting, political victories. June 21, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in World Cup 2010.
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[Taken from the DPR Korea news wires.]

The glorious Party Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would like to apologize to viewers for the service interruption in the 29th minute of the World Cup soccer match between the glorious DPR Korea national team and the cod-hoarding imperialist Portuguese pigdogs.

It appears the Western Satan has again attempted to undermine the revolution by staunching the broadcast.

To those viewers interested in knowing before the signal returns, the DPR Korea team scored six goals in that timespan. The head pigdog of Portugal was in talks at halftime to cede sovereignty over his fief to the Dear Leader.

July 21 preview: Don’t bet your Swiss bank account on any of them June 20, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Hair, World Cup 2010.
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Portugal vs. DPR Korea

Key questions:

  • Will Portugal convert to socialism like the last team the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ripped to shreds? After DPR Korea left Brazil a withered husk of a football team on Wednesday, both Brazil and South Africa converted their entire economies to socialism on the spot and embraced Kim Jong Il as their supreme leaders. Will Portugal do the same after DPRK’s first goal, or will they wait until the end of the game?
  • How much will it suck if Portugal wins? Considering a Portuguese win would leave the Seleccao a drab stalemate with already qualified Brazil away from the Round of 16, a loss by the glorious DPR could be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to ruin this evil capitalist sham tournament by effectively knocking out the Ivory Coast, a far more attractive and compelling side than Portugal.
  • How embarrassing will it be when Cristiano Ronaldo can’t even score against the glorious DPR?

Key man: Jong Tae Se. The Ivory Coast’s subsequent hiding by Brazil proved that Sven Goran Eriksson’s team isn’t as defensively sound as I first thought. In turn, that proved that Portugal is really bad at things like moving and penetration. The glorious DPR can certainly stop Portugal from scoring on a good day. People will call it a surprise, and if they do they are idiots who simply haven’t been paying attention. Jong, though, will need to translate his passion into goals to make it matter.

Key hair: Raul Meireles v. Mun In Guk. Will the Glorious Democratic People’s players see Meireles’ cropped-sided neo-rent-boy look as indicative of everything they’ve hated about capitalism since they first saw a Swiss pay toilet? Will the Glorious Democratic People’s censors think it so decadent and bourgeois they refuse to air the game in the first place? And can Meireles even be expected to bother showing up if his opposite number, Mun, has hair so dizzyingly similar to the rest?

Chile v. Switzerland

Key questions:

  • Does anybody actually want Switzerland to win? Before I begin, can we pretend I just made a cheap joke about Swiss neutrality and move on with our lives? I really don’t want to go to the trouble. Anyway, with Switzerland being painted as the loutish villains that stifled The World’s Most Gloriously Perfect National Team™ off the field and Chile anointed The World’s Second Most Gloriously Attacking National Team™, there’s probably only one “neutral’s choice” (hence my earlier request that you pretend I made a joke). One must question why smaller countries like Switzerland are even allowed to turn up at World Cups if all they do is play well and get surprising results against the favorites.
  • Do you believe in miracles? In the wake of Chile’s shaming of Honduras, while some praised the South American team, others said a “team that defends properly” would destroy them. This seems to reflect the popular wisdom: You don’t win football games by scoring goals and playing better, you win them by man-marking. When teams get the ball back, it must be because of good defending, but when teams get into positions to score, it’s obviously because of bad defending. Or it could be that having six players attacking at all times is simply going to create problems for any defense. No, that’s daft, isn’t it? It would take a miracle for Chile to win.
  • How many Swiss-related cliches can you stand? I’m going to consider it a testament to my personal fortitude if I can sit through ten uses of any of the following terms: “Swiss watch,” “Swiss Army knife,” “Swiss cheese,” “Swiss Miss.”

Key man: Jorge Valdivia. In the absence of recognized forward Humberto Suazo, Valdivia, a playmaker by nature, will be expected to make like a Swiss Army knife and perform a different function: center forward. If he does, Chile will run like a Swiss watch and make Swiss cheese out of the Swiss defense. Beware, though, because as he demonstrated against Honduras, he’s well capable of the occasional Swiss Miss. If he performs, though, the Chileans will delight the neutrals — that’s right, even the notoriously impartial Swiss!

Key hair: Arturo Vidal v. Ludovic Magnin. Is it hard for Magnin to play and deliver his trademark set plays without eyebrows? Will Vidal’s towering little fin make up for Chile’s height disadvantage?

Spain v. Honduras

Key questions:

  • If Spain wins, will Spain again be the best team in the world? Everyone spent the build up to Spain v. Switzerland talking about how Spain would really get the tournament going. Then Spain fell flat on its face. Now nobody wants to talk about Spain because it’s the same old Spain. But if the Spainiards can run up a big score against Honduras — which, judging by a limp Honduran performance against Chile, is pretty likely — maybe everyone will love them again.
  • Should anyone take Honduras seriously? I mean, come on, they’re certainly worse than England and France … Oh, wait.
  • This is a walkover, right? Yes, just like Switzerland.

Key man: Wilson Palacios. He is suspiciously similar to Spain’s rejected midfield hustler Marcos Senna, so perhaps he’ll be motivated to strike like the avenging angel of undersized, energetic central bruisers to Senna Vicente del Bosque out of the World Cup.

Key hair: Ramon Nunez v. David Villa/Fernando Torres. Carlos Pavon’s Predator-style mop gives a minnow like Honduras some flair, but the douche-nozzle sideburns on Nunez have no place in any team. Meanwhile, whomever wins the battle to start between Torres and Villa may also win the title of pukiest bro-cowl: Torres’ has that infuriating Cracker Jack-box quality to it, but Villa has a very objectionable soul patch.

Predictions:

Portugal 0-1 DPR Korea, Chile 0-0 Switzerland, Spain 6-0 Honduras

Algerian Hairstyle: That of a douche bag from middle school. June 18, 2010

Posted by michaeltomlinson in African soccer, Hair, World Cup 2010.
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Faouzi Chaouchi looking very natural and blonde

Remember seventh grade? personally I don’t recall much, but I know that those were the years of great hair experimentation. The most fancied option of the time and the often maligned bleached doo nearly always stole the show. So, Algeria not to be outdone by late 90s and early 2000’s suburban white children have gone the way of the bright blonde as well. It isn’t just that its blonde, but its gelled and spiked and an all around poor showing by the North African’s and their stylists. Karim Ziani most notably is sporting the florescent look as is Chaouni who is missing his start in goal due to “injury.” Or it could just be that he is ridiculously god awful. Though his replacement M’Bolhi nearly let in the first ball kicked near him which he misjudged on the fly like a T-ball outfielder. Of course as I say this he makes a decent stop on Lampard. maybe i’ll give him a chance, but the hair, not a chance.

South Africa 0-3 Uruguay: Home team effectively eliminated June 16, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in World Cup 2010.
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Well, that sucks, huh?

In theory, the hosts aren’t eliminated. They could still hope that France and Uruguay both beat Mexico, and then they beat France by more than four goals.

It’s not going to happen, even with how terrible France is. In fact, that might go against them: If Mexico beats France, then El Tri will go into the final game needing only a draw to advance — just like Uruguay. History suggests that, in situations where two culturally similar countries can eliminate rivals with a mutually beneficial draw, it happens.

Where does this leave the World Cup? Man, it’s not mine to say. Poorer for the experience, I guess.

Spain brings out the script of World Cups past. June 16, 2010

Posted by michaeltomlinson in European soccer, Spanish soccer, World Cup 2010.
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It is no little known fact that one of the most talented teams in the World and reigning European Champions Spain have only made it past the quarters once in a World Cup . For all of the woes and tribulations the English and their fan’s have suffered through, at least they have a cup.

Spain in an effort that lacked composure in the final half and an organized counter defense fell to the Swiss 1-0. I didn’t expect it, and probably neither did half of the 7 million Swiss. What can unequivocally be said in most minds is that no sport or tournament feels the burden of a sore history quite like the World Cup.

Spain controlled the pace from the onset, which is about as surprising a Barcelona, Real Madrid top 2 La Liga finish. What didn’t happen is what some might describe as the most important aspect of a winning team, finishing. Pass a team to death and have 70 percent possession, it looks pretty and definitely fills out a stat sheet. Unfortunately that just aint shit. The swiss had a nice through ball essentially through Sergio Busquets, and can anyone really tell me what Iker is doing going out feet first? If you saw it, you know of the fuck scramble that ensued which was a completely fitting finish to a side who showed little to no offensive adeptness previously. For what its worth outside of the Alonzo screamer off the post, the best two chances we’re that of second half Swiss Counters.

Though this loss screams of past failures it might actually be exactly what Spain needs to turn things in their favor. Honduras doesn’t have much to offer and if they fail to pull 3 points from the dust, their tournament is sincerely trashed. What this could all mean is a tougher road for Chile who probably poses as the second best side in the group but doesn’t match as well defensively against an assured to be angry Spanish side.

All said and done I still have Spain and Chile moving on. That is unless the soccer gods have their way as they often do.