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World Cup So Far

June 18, 2006

Well, week one is done, I’ve just finished a weekend of doing nothing but watching football, ending with the France v Korea match.
France camee out determined and focused, Henri, especially, not only with that early goal, but also his fierce attack. One of my pre-tournament picks played as advertised, until they feel asleep midway through the last forty five minutes. Barthez was caught in a rare moment of indecision and allowed a chintzy last minute goal by the ever hustling Korean side. However, if you saw that match, you know the outcome was affected by one of the tournament’s biggest stories so far.

 

The big story, besides the unexpected results and Ronaldo’s spotty play, is the refereeing. How miserable. I totally understand wanting to crack down on fouls (which slow down the game as well as of course threaten the limbs of the players), however, they have come out with so many quick yellows it is ridiculous. That would be something one could live with if it wasn’t for all the bad calls and inconsistencies, penalties not given, missed obstructions, just sad. France had a clear goal taken away. I suppose the refs were in a bad position and couldn’t see that the ball had crossed the line.  

The most brilliant thing about this whole cup, something I’d have missed if I’d been fortunate enough to make the trip to Germany, is Adidas’ “Impossible Team” ad campaign, where two kids pick sides for a football match picking from some of the world’s best players. When I was a lad, I’d only have known enough to have Pele, Chinaglia, and Rummenigge on my side. Oh, maybe Eusebio. Still, anyone should be able to identify with that idea, and the execution was perfect. If the full length ending doesn’t make you smile, you might want to consider Lithium.

The United States side has managed to stay alive. Once I started to hear last year how highly the team had been ranked, I started scratching my head. Sure, we have several players now commanding top spots in the Premiership. We have improved much beyond the past teams that survived international play based on good ol’ American grit. But number four in the world?

Now, our weaknesses have been exposed; the midfield, Demarcus Beasley, too slight, perhaps too timid to dominate on an international stage; Reyna, aging – wiley – but still aging; the strikers, slow of foot and uninventive, Donovan looking like a little kid out there with his annoying little trot. Defense was always a strength, and though it didn’t look it during the first match, it was a strength during the second against
Italy. Onyuguchi showed signs of his potential. Commentators suggested he was nervous during the first match, and perhaps he was. Keller will never disappoint, he may not always be stellar, however he’s not one to make mistakes.

I suppose Ronaldo’s disappearing act is the other big story. I suppose . . . he isn’t that old (look at France’s side!) and he’s heavier than 2002, but so am I. He isn’t that heavy, really. However, he hasn’t been the huge star in club play he’s been in the past. That he isn’t dominating play shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. That he isn’t scoring is not a problem for the Brazilian side – not right now.

You have to be impressed with the job Marco van Basten has done with the Dutch side. You haven’t heard a peep of complaint or discord coming out of their camp. I suppose that’s because Davids. Seedorf and Kluivert are at home watching. I’d thought that was a mistake, especially with Davids experience and speed. Though it might look like he was exorcising the Surinamese influence from the squad,  van Basten was actually just getting rid of the head cases. Aside from keeping the team a team, he’s also doing a pretty good job of coaching. I have to say I miss Rijkaard, though.

I’ve not bothered to watch an entire match with Germany involved. I’m assuming that as hosts they will make it through to the next round, as hosts are want to do.

Round here we root for the Samurai Blue, and well they exhibit their usual tendencies; fantastic work rate, shifty play in the midfield, with good, though dispassionate distribution from Nakata. However, they also showed their piss poor finishing, and their team speed may be exposed against Brasil. The only thing working in their favor in that match is that Brazil is already through and will probably rest a couple of players, so Japan has a chance to stay level at least, though they need a miracle win to advance.

Zico should have been fired last year. I don’t suppose the JFA has the stones to let go of a legend, though. The only smart tactical move he’s made is to have his defenders, especially the fleet footed Alex, make runs from the back. Still, Alex, who is prone to mistakes himself, took too many long range shots. Yes, the new ball has lots of motion on it, however, you don’t want the ball spinning off into the stands every time you shoot.

My own little experiment, the World Cup of Hip Hop, failed as I predicted. Not necessarily because of lack of interest, I did get some submissions. It was just that I didn’t have the time or energy to promote it like it should have been promoted. I had that thought in the back of my mind when I came up with the idea, yet I just ran on wishful thinking and went ahead with setting it all up anyway.

I suppose it isn’t too late, even though some teams have already made it through to the next round.   

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2006 10:03 am

    I don’t know if it can be considered well since it calls the tackle that had Mastroeni sent off “blood curdling.” That was another stupid act of officiating.

  2. June 19, 2006 3:08 pm

    Oh, so British tabloid sports writers aren’t good enough for you?

    The entire piece seemed to be full of tongue in cheek purple prose, hence the blood curdling tackle.

  3. June 19, 2006 3:22 pm

    Well, they ended up admitting that the US side showed them something they didn’t expect, despite the attack on the Ugly Americans. So I take them at their word . . .

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