June 12, 2010

Argentina 1, Nigeria 0: Against a talented but often clueless African representative, Argentina scored early on an unmarked header off a corner kick, then lucked into some of the lamest shooting in Cup history by Nigeria before cruising to victory. For all the talk about this being an "African World Cup", one can really have no conclusion other than that the continent is reverting back to the tradition of the 1974 Zaire squad, which was famous for being unfamiliar with the concept of setting up a defensive wall on free kicks and was outscored, 0-14 in three games.
South Korea 2, Greece 0: Koreans impressive, Greeks lame as always, in the first TiVo match of the tourney. Soccer is a sport uniquely suited for digital video recording, since it has long spells where nothing of consequence happens, so an entire game can be digested by the casual fan in fifteen minutes or less, and this game, which started at 4:30 a.m. on the Pacific Coast, was no exception.

The ROK scored in the fourth minute, and were never threatened. The Greeks have now played 360 minutes of World Cup action since 1994 without scoring a goal; the record is 517 minutes, by the hapless Bolivians over a period of three World Cups spanning sixty-four years.

June 11, 2010

France 0, Uruguay 0: Both the expected (a Uruguayan player was ejected for a thuggish play) and unexpected (Thierry Henry didn't cheat, which may explain why the game ended scoreless). All four teams in Group A tied today, which means all four will be mathematically alive on going into the third game of the round robin, no matter what happens in the second game. Yipppeeee !!
Mexico 1, South Africa 1: And so it begins. The Bafana Bafana narrowly avoid being the first host country to lose its World Cup opener, holding Our Neighbors to the South to a draw, causing great joy in South Africa and great consternation among teabaggers in Arizona. In fact, it was the Tricolores who needed to rally late, tying the game on a goal by Rafael Marquez in the final twelve minutes to earn the point.

Even more annoying than the non-stop blare of the air horns, which threaten to drive down interest in the sport to near-American levels in the rest of the world, is this year's set of announcers on ESPN. It has become a tradition among soccer snobs on the East Coast to make sport of whichever converted baseball announcer is doing the games for that network, that it became easy to forget that England is not just the birthplace of soccer, but also crappy sports announcing as well.

This year, Americans are treated to someone named Martin Tyler, a Chris Schenkel-esque bore who may have done more to reinforce the stereotype for Americans of soccer being a deadly-dull sport than anyone this side of Juventus. It took only forty minutes of listening to this clown and his announcing partner for me to switch over to Univision, where I can at least have the pleasure of listening to people who act like they enjoy what they're doing, even if I can't understand a word of Spanish. The low point for ESPN occurred when Mr. Tyler and his sidekick attacked a linesman for disallowing a goal, apparently not realizing that the rule in the sport requires that there be two defenders (one of whom may be the goalie) between the recipient of the ball and the goal line. Bring back Dave O'Brien !!!

It should be a fun four weeks....

June 07, 2010

With the World Cup starting in four days, it's time for what has become a quadrennial tradition at Smythe's World: the breakdown of the entrants by what team they would be in the NCAA Tournament. So hear goes with the first draft:

Algeria -- Southern Conf. champion
Argentina -- Michigan St.
Australia -- Siena
Brazil -- Kentucky

Cameroon -- Pac-10 runner-up
Chile -- Baylor
Denmark -- Gonzaga
England -- Kansas

France -- Louisville
Germany -- North Carolina
Ghana -- Michigan
Greece -- Temple

Honduras -- MEAC champion
Italy -- Duke
Ivory Coast -- Washington
Japan -- Big Sky champion

Mexico -- Purdue
Netherlands -- Connecticut
New Zealand -- Play-in winner
Nigeria -- California

North Korea -- SWAC champion
Paraguay -- Mississippi St.
Portugal -- Villanova
Serbia -- Illinois

Slovakia -- Arizona St.
Slovenia -- Colonial Conf. champion
South Africa -- Big South champion
South Korea -- Ivy League champion

Spain -- UCLA
Switzerland -- Oklahoma St.
United States -- Missouri Valley Conf. champion
Uruguay -- Texas A&M

Leave any questions, challenges, tips, etc. in the comments section....