July 03, 2010
In his playing days, Maradona made people reconsider the sacred idea that Pele was surely the greatest player to ever patrol the pitch. He went from soccer superstar to Argentine folk hero during the 1986 World Cup, when he “avenged” the 1982 British defeat of Argentina in the Falklands War by defeating England in the quarterfinals, with a little help from the "Hand of God."It's too bad, though, that the Little Ball of Hate can't coach worth shite, so Mr. Galeano and others can take Maradona's manroot out of their collective mouths' nightmares can be efficient, too.* There is no conceivable way that a team with Messi, Tevez, et al., should have lost by four goals to a German team missing its best player (Michael Ballack), even if Jorge Larrionda had reffed this match as well. The Germans are the first team since the French team in 1958 to score four or more goals in three different games of the same World Cup.
Maradona's brilliance inspired Eduardo Galeano to write, “No one can predict the devilish tricks this inventor of surprises will dream up for the simple joy of throwing the computers off track, tricks he never repeats. He’s not quick, more like a short-legged bull, but he carries the ball sewn to his foot and he’s got eyes all over his body. His acrobatics light up the field....In the frigid soccer of the end of the century, which detests defeat and forbids all fun, that man was one of the few who proved that fantasy can be efficient.”
July 02, 2010
To be paralyzingly, painfully, hopelessly unfunny is not a particular defect or shortcoming in, say, a cable repair man or a Supreme Court justice or a Navy Seal. These jobs can be performed humorlessly with no loss of efficiency or impact. But to be paralyzingly, painfully, hopelessly unfunny is a serious drawback, even lapse, in a comedian. And the late Bob Hope devoted a fantastically successful and well-remunerated lifetime to showing that a truly unfunny man can make it as a comic. There is a laugh here, but it is on us.More instances of his execrable talent at taking a dump on the recently-deceased can be found here (apparently, it is a talent shared with other libertarians and right wing nut jobs). With the touch of a bully, Hitchens never wept for the people killed in the wars he cheared on, so pardon me if I don't shed a tear now for the self-proclaimed "contrarian."
July 01, 2010
We have now reached the quarterfinals, the point in the World Cup that the tournament goes from being an event that unites the sports fans of the planet to just another sports championship. Sharing in common with all other sports, offense usually takes a hit at this stage:
YEAR 1st Round/2nd Round/Quarterfinals/Semifinals/Finals
1986 74 (36) // 24 .....7 ... 4 /// 5
1990 82 (36) // 18 ... 7 .. 4 /// 1
1994 88 (36) // 25 ...15 .. 4 /// 0
1998 127 (48) // 24 ..11 .. 5 /// 3
2002 128 (48) //17 .. 6 ... 2 /// 2
2006 117 (48) // 15 .. 6 .. 3 /// 2
2010 101 (48) // 22 ..10..6
In the early rounds of the World Cup, goals are typically scored more frequently, since the disparity in talent usually permits the games to open up; thus, a talented but defensive-oriented team like Portugal will beat North Korea by seven goals; when there’s some debate as to whether a team belongs at this level, the question isn’t so much the outcome but the ability of the better team to break through. Scoring in soccer, like offense in baseball, football or basketball, goes way up when the match-up is lopsided. In the second round, there are still a handful of teams that are lucky to be there, such as the representatives from Africa, CONCACAF and Asia, so the possibility for a number of highscoring games is increased at that point as well.
After the second round, the teams that are still alive are likely to belong among the elite; they're in it to win it. And at that level, it is unusual for a team not to have a solid cadre of players at the back. No matter how creative they are up front, those teams run into other teams that can slow them down. In addition, the tendency in any sport is for defenses to be ahead of offenses; teams at this level are usually playing to stop the other side rather than outscore them, which makes sense in a sport where 1-0 scores are the most common. When defense becomes too dominant, as it has now in soccer, the governing authorities in the sport will try to devise a way to open up scoring, but that’s more likely to happen after the Cup, which through the first round generated the fewest goals per game in history. So in the meantime, get ready for more non-scoring games going to penalty kicks, and 1-0 results that have the feel of being one-sided.
June 28, 2010
June 27, 2010
They also still would have lost, simply because they don't have the horses the Germans have. In the first half the Germans completely outclassed the Three Lions, and could have easily had two or three more goals, and in the second, they toyed with their opponents until they could two counter-attack opportunities that they converted. The better team won.
Ghana 2, USA 1 [OT]: This might be a sign of the emerging base of true soccer fans in America: that a tactical mistake by the coach of the national team could be a subject of discussion, as a cause for blame for the team's early departure. Bradley's decision to start Ricardo Clark would have a questionable move the first time it happened, since there is nothing in his pedigree or career that suggests he belongs on the national team to begin with, much less start in the World Cup (even if he was a superstar, he's missed most of the last year with injuries, and has not been able to get into the lineup on his club team in Germany).
Another sign: I saw the game at a diner/bar in Valdez, Alaska, where the assembled mass of riggers, teamsters and their families watched the game in rapt attention. I don't know how they reacted when Gyan scored in extra time to put Ghana ahead, or when the ensuing futility of Team USA's comeback bid proved itself out, as I was on a long coach ride to the Copper River Valley, but I take it I didn't miss a thing. FWIW, Ghana is going to have to elevate its game enormously to beat Uruguay in the quarterfinals next Friday.
Uruguay 2, South Korea 1: 0-0, 2-1, 0-0, 0-4, 2-0, 0-0, 0-1, 1-0 (OT), 1-3, 0-1, 0-2, 1-1, 0-3, 1-1, 1-6, 0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-3, 1-0, 0-2. Those are Uruguay's World Cup results from 1966 to 1990. Notice a pattern there? In 21 matches, they had five scoreless draws, twelve games where they were shut out, with another game where they didn't score their one goal until the final minute of extra time. In the five World Cups they played from 1966 to 1990, Uruguay scored a grand total of eleven goals. All in all, a remarkable 19 of their 21 games during that spell saw them score only once or not at all, with only four wins, against France (1966), Israel and the Soviet Union (1970), and South Korea (1990).
Since Diego Forlan joined the national squad, this is their World Cup record: 1-2, 0-0, 3-3, 0-0, 3-0, 1-0, 2-1. Maybe that wouldn't be an impressive spell for a team like Brazil or Germany, but three wins in seven matches, with only one defeat and two scoreless draws, ten goals scored total, is definitely out of character. On two occasions, they scored three goals in the same game !!! I know Forlan was a flop with United, but them again Wayne Rooney is actually a star for that team, so Forlan must be given his due for being able to come up when it counts.
Today's game was consistent with Uruguay's play during the Forlan Era, fast-paced, attack-oriented, nothing like the abysmal match the two countries played in 1990. Kudos to both teams.