22 December 2006

Pre-Christmas randomness.

  1. Jamie Carragher's year-end awards. They're all pretty great, but my favorite award is this one:
    Worst hair cut?

    It used to be Harry Kewell, I think that could count because he had that at the end of last season. At the moment…Riise just dyed his hair blonde from ginger. Who've I missed? Gonzalez has got a bad one, coming up to a point or something along those lines. Alonso when he lets his grow long looks pretty bad.
    I'm comforted by the knowledge that it's not just Footie Girl and I who are obsessed with players' hair. (And if you read the whole thing, he also makes fun of Steven Gerrard for that gelled monstrosity he had on his head earlier in the season. Well-played, Carra.

  2. 2006: the year of the WAG. I have to say, I have a bit of a fixation on the WAGs -- it's mostly trainwreck appeal, but still. Melanie Slade is cuter than hell, and there are a few others I like (mostly the ones not in the press). Having said that, though, can they go away now? It's pretty sad that in a World Cup year, the biggest story is a bunch of women going to Germany, dancing on tables, and spending too much money at H&M. (Also, why do I know who Abi Clancy is, and how do I remove that knowledge from my mind?) Maybe if the team had managed more than six goals the entire tournament, there would be more of a story relating to, you know, soccer. There's always Euro 2008, if they get there.

  3. Finally, I know this has been linked absolutely everywhere, but it's still great, so I'm linking it again.

    If you're going to cancel a Carling Cup quarterfinal due to fog? Make sure to give your interviews inside. Or at least not where the players can see you.

19 December 2006

Postponed due to fog.

Yeah, yeah, I know playing in fog is dangerous and all. But really, it doesn't look all that foggy, and you can clearly see from one side of the pitch to the other. Just crank up the lights a bit and it's all good. And it seems like both teams wanted to play, too. Bah. I can't entertain myself all break, guys. (But if they play in snow, which they do, I don't get how fog is more dangerous, really. Silly refs.)

In the tie that actually happened, Charlton went down against Wycombe Wanderers, currently in League Two. I don't have anything against Charlton, really, but man, I love the Cinderella stories. I just finished The Far Corner last weekend, too. It's sort of a cross between sports writing and travel writing -- the author goes around the Northeast of England attending soccer matches. It's hilarious, and he goes to several Wycombe matches, so now I know a very little about them (but more than I did before). Anyway. As long as they don't get drawn against Liverpool in the next round, go Wycombe! (And if anyone is looking for a good holiday read, The Far Corner is it. Really good, and probably one of the best soccer books I've read. Better than How Soccer Explains the World, at least.)

15 December 2006

Champions League draw

Liverpool drawn against Barcelona in Champions League round of 16.

I'm sorry, all I want to say are various combinations of profanity. (Also, BBC? Thanks for pointing out that it'll be "tricky." We didn't know that.) Dammit! Looks like the Carling Cup is it this season. Maybe.

The only bright spot here is that Man U got Lille. Who, if y'all remember, prevented Man U from advancing out of the group stages last season. I don't hold out a lot of hope for Cinderella stories, but it'd be nice. (Also, Man U fans? I don't want to hear any more complaining about easy draws. Ever.)

In other draw news, Arsenal got PSV, Chelsea got Porto, and Celtic got AC Milan (speaking of easy draws, MILAN). Then in the games I don't care about, you have Roma-Lyon and Inter-Valencia. The final tie is Real Madrid-Bayern Munich, which could potentially be interesting, especially if Oliver Kahn goes crazy and starts gnawing on Ronaldo's arm or something. Or he and Iker Casillas could have the Battle of the Shouty Keepers. I would probably pay money to see that.

13 December 2006

Steven is a punk rocker now.

Honestly, I thought 'fancy dress' meant 'black tie.' Guess not. Liverpool, you worry me sometimes. Though I have to say, Daniel Agger as Elvis? Pretty brilliant.

And on an unrelated note, this may be the best quote ever. Joey Barton on the rash of England autobiographies:

"We got beaten in the quarter-finals. I played like shit. Here's my book."
I don't even like him, but that's about right, really. Should make things interesting when (or if) he gets called up. (My favorite statistic ever in life: Ashley Cole's book has sold, at last count, less than five thousand copies. I don't want to say karma, but. KARMA.)

11 December 2006

Carra scores?

Oh, Jamie Carragher. The last time you scored, I was in high school. This is kinda like seeing a UFO, but infinitely more fun. Also, while that goal celebration isn't the most creative I've ever seen, I do love how the entire team gets involved in it. I guess you have to figure that's probably a once-in-a-career chance.

So, yeah, 4-0. I'd have liked to see some better play in the first half, but it feels silly to complain about a result like that. Our defense seems to have mostly sorted itself out, though I'd like to see it against a team that creates more than Fulham did. Still, we're finally in the Champions League spots, so I'll quit complaining for a while.

Unlike both Arsenal and Chelsea, after their draw (see what I did with that segue?). If you want serious analysis of this game, I suggest going elsewhere, because honestly I don't much care for either of the team. However, the petty little dramas that emerge from all these games? Hilarious. Nothing can top the Christmas card debacle of last season, but we have Ashley Cole attempting to make nice with Cesc Fabregas and Jens Lehmann complaining that Frank Lampard said mean things to him. Seriously? Cole said some pretty nasty things about Fabregas, so I can understand not wanting to pretend like everything's okay. But insulting each other seems to be part of the game; not that it should be, necessarily, but it is. Lehmann might be justified in his complaints, but I don't really think anyone's going to take him seriously. Unless he starts headbutting people when they offend him. Which I would support, purely for the comedic value.

And finally today, West Ham fired Alan Pardew. This makes me sadder than it probably should, but I always kinda liked Pardew. He seems like a good guy, and it's a little unfair to tell him his job's safe and then fire him a week later, I think. I wonder what would have happened if he'd not bought Tevez and Mascherano back in August -- that seems to have been the tipping point. Anyway, I liked him, and here's hoping he'll make it back to the Premiership soon.

07 December 2006

A return to the shallow end

Or the sleazy end, as it may be. I've been in the depths of finals and papers since before Thanksgiving, which is my not-that-great excuse for radio silence. Since I've been gone:

  • Liverpool topped their Champions League with a game to spare. Thank god, since they proceeded to lose to Galatasaray in the last game, despite Fowler's double. At least they're through now, though I'll miss not hearing the Champions League theme song until February.

  • First away win of the season, baby. I still think the yellow kits are cursed somehow -- note that they were wearing red this time. I'm a bit amazed that they're fifth in the league, but if they keep playing like this, maybe fourth will happen. (On another note, when the commentators are openly acknowledging that you have to play in central midfield or else you'll pout? You are not being a good captain, but just another mediocre diva. Time to step up, Steven.)

  • Liverpool got maybe, possibly, hypothetically bought by Dubai. Xabi Alonso is skeptical, and I am too, a little. More on this later, when and if the deal goes through.

  • Shevchenko is leaving Chelsea. Or maybe not. They don't really need him now Drogba's figured out how to stay on his feet, and Milan never found an effective replacement. Also, Sheva looks like he hasn't slept a night since he left Milan. Homesickness? Or is he a vampire? It's unclear.

All good stories, and all worth talking about. However, the topic of discussion today? Sex tapes. Specifically, this. DEAR FOOTBALLERS: STOP MAKING SEX TAPES. They will get out, you will be embarrassed, and if you're at Sunderland, Roy Keane will probably give you a hairdryer treatment so extensive even Sir Alex would be impressed. It's only a matter of time before that video shows up on Youtube or some blog, and yeah. The chants will be legendary, I feel. Especially for the guy "performing a sexual act" while still wearing his sweater. I just . . . what? I don't have anything else to say that hasn't been said better by the Fiver. Except. DEAR FOOTBALLERS. STOP MAKING SEX TAPES. Or you'll still be talking about it five years later, and making this humble blogger vaguely ill. Yeah, I definitely meant the sleazy end of the pool, and that's without even linking the Stefan Postma video. Sorry.

15 November 2006

Linkspam of the day

How would you do as a WAG? As myself, turns out I'm non-league -- no tan, jeans, and yeah. The best I could hope for is, like, Stan Collymore. And who wants that?

Steven Gerrard: jaded free spirit? I don't think he's only effective in central midfield. Considering he was on the right a lot of the time last season, that can't be the problem with Liverpool's form this time around. However, Momo's out for a good long while now. If it'd get him to stop pouting for a while, why not try center?

I don't really care whether you think it's realistic or not, boys. Just try to win? Also, Riise, just mark your man. Seriously.

12 November 2006

Unpopular sporting opinions

In some ways I really am a soccer fundamentalist. I don’t know how I got all these prejudices, considering I’m only in my fifth season of fandom. Nevertheless, here they are, and I'm not apologizing for any of them.

If I ran the world (or at least the Premiership):

  1. No gloves. Run more and your hands won’t be cold, kids.

  2. Shoes should be as close to completely black as possible. At the very least, they should not be electric-blue or yellow. Beckham and Cisse, I’m looking at you.

  3. There is a very narrow range of acceptable goal celebrations. Jumping on teammates? Fine. Kissing your ring finger, badge, or teammate? Fine. Rocking an imaginary child, pretending to give birth to the ball, or continuing to suck your thumb even though your son is practically in junior high now? No. Stop it. (However, shirt-removal should not be a yellow. They’re not hurting anyone, and there’s no reason to steal female fans’ joy like that.)

  4. Strikers and keepers shouldn’t be captains. Strikers are too far upfield and can’t see the run of play well. Also, they’re generally more focused on scoring than on anything else, which makes for bad captains. Keepers are, as you may have noticed, not outfield players, so even though they can see the play, they’re not involved enough for me. I’m willing to create an exception for international teams – because, really, Ukraine aren’t going to have anyone but Shevchenko as their captain – but as far as club teams? Central defenders or midfielders are totally the way to go.

  5. Related to that, keepers shouldn’t take free kicks or penalties. I admit this is an irrational prejudice, based entirely on my virulent dislike of Rogerio Ceni, but I’m sticking with it. Keepers are meant to prevent goals from being scored, not to score them.

  6. Slide tackling is to be encouraged. Next to a long-range goal, a well-timed slide tackle is just about my favorite thing about this sport. Carding for every single tackle is lame. This is a contact sport, and as long as they’re not actively trying to break each other’s legs, go for it.

  7. Diving is not strategic. It just means you’re lame. I know everyone does it, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. This isn’t a problem in the Premiership as much as it is in some other leagues, but god. I really do hate it.

  8. Leave the ref alone. God knows they aren’t perfect (Graham Poll, anyone?), but surrounding them and yelling about every call that goes against your team is both rude and stupid. You know the ref isn’t going to change his decision, so all you’re doing is building up bad feelings, looking like a bully, and making it more likely that he’s not going to give you the benefit of the doubt the next time. Complaining afterward has the same issues, and if you’re Mike Newell, it makes you look like a real dick. For other reasons than normal, true, but whatever. I’m done with him.

  9. And finally, if you wear one of those special protective headbands, I totally reserve the right to call you a little girl.

In other news, Paul Dalglish is totally cute. I can’t say I care much about this final, but that’s a pretty nice article.

We'll talk about the Arsenal match when I can be coherent and rational about it. Right now, my favorite part is Xabi's tackle that should've been a card. Nothing happened for the other 89 minutes.

30 October 2006

Burning questions from this weekend

In the Premiership:
1. Arsenal: gay team or gayest team?

2. Steven Gerrard's new strategy: pout until you score?

3. Liverpool: why haven't they been playing like this all season? Rafa fielded his 99th consecutive different lineup, but they didn't really seem to do anything all that different in terms of formation or strategy, except for the strange switch of Carra and Hyypia for the first third of the game. The real question from that game for me is how Villa survived that long as the only unbeaten team in the league. Baros and Angel were completely invisible (even before they were taken off), and it looks like they've been owing a lot to Gareth Barry. Win the midfield and you can close down Villa, looks like. Even with that, though, that was by far the best performance Liverpool have put in all season. Here's hoping we can get the defense solidified and qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds tomorrow with a game or two to spare.

Outside the Premiership:
4. What the hell happened to Sociedad? They're my Spanish team, and this is pretty sad. I hate to see any team do a Sunderland, but especially one that has such an interesting history as Sociedad.

5. Did anyone know Tomas Rosicky has a twin brother playing in MLS? I've been sort of lackadaisically following the MLS playoffs (though now that Chivas and Jonathan Bornstein are gone, my interest may wane, because I am just that shallow). So I had New York/DC on, and was pretty surprised to see a mini-Rosicky running around in a Red Bull kit. Anyone else foresee a Parent Trap place-switch kind of thing going on here? Just me? Okay.

6. How many ways can Mourinho be a douche in one interview? I tried to count, but then I ran out of fingers. God, I'm usually a "cheer for the English team" girl, but I hope they get stuffed tomorrow.

18 October 2006

Matchday 3 -- Liverpool/Bordeaux

Reina's socks are bothering me. Why don't they match the rest of his kit? It was incredibly distracting, but in this case, being distracted from the game wasn't entirely bad. Liverpool didn't play badly, exactly, but they sure didn't play as well as they could have. And it wasn't sloppiness out of desperation or desire to score, either -- it just mostly looked like they couldn't really be bothered. Luis Garcia did his Luis Garcia thing and missed a couple of easy, easy chances. Crouch again demonstrated his amazing ability to be nearly seven feet tall and no good in the air. Really, the only area where Liverpool did well, I thought, was the left side. I continue to be a big fan of Mark Gonzalez, and he and Riise linked up well for the most part. I'd like to see that pairing in the league on a more regular basis.

Also. Boys. How long have we had zonal marking for corners? A couple of seasons, right? Okay. In that case, y'all should be a lot better at it. Like, a LOT. There's no excuse for almost giving up two incredibly soft goals like that. I'm not sure why this is still such an issue for them, but at this point, it really shouldn't be anymore.

Gah. They won, so I should be happy. But the same issues they had last season aren't going away, and they've picked up a lot of defense problems and general malaise to go with them. Here's hoping they finally show up for the season against Man U Sunday. If they don't? Honestly, there goes their chance of challenging for the title, I think.

14 October 2006

It's not still Friday the 13th, right?

Something's not right here. I've been critical of John Terry in the past (and will most likely continue to be so), but credit where it's due, this was pretty awesome of him. Footie Girl and I were talking about it, though, and we wondered -- how did everyone know that Terry was going in goal? Did they practice what to do if both keepers are knocked out and all the subs are used? Either they plan for pretty remote contingencies over at Stamford Bridge, or John Terry is just the jack-of-all-trades down there. You know, driving the bus, taking the kits home to be cleaned, walking Mourinho's dog and getting his morning lattes. Playing keeper's all in a day's work, then, really. I wish Reading had been able to press their advantage better after Mikel got sent off, but That was still the most entertaining game I've seen from Chelsea in a long time, so I'll take it. And Cech and Cudicini are both okay, so it's all good. (One of the news reports I read called him "Czech keeper Cech," and I've been giggling and saying that to myself all night. Yes, I am five. But it's fun!)

Less fun? Liverpool 1 - Blackburn 1. I'm not sure what the big problem is, but there are a couple of little things that I'm noticing. First, now that they have wingers, Rafa seems afraid to use them. I know Pennant played today, but what about putting Gonzalez on as more than an impact sub? Garcia's had that role for the past two seasons, but it's time to admit it -- Garcia only works in the Champions League (or against Chelsea). Give some of the new boys a chance, especially the ones specifically brought in to provide pace and width. It's great that they have them, but the team won't unless they start getting some playing time. Second, Steven Gerrard needs to score. The thing is, though, I don't think a goal will come until he quits trying to force it. He was completely anonymous today, except for the few times he showed up to do his Lampard impression and take bad shots from a long way out. That's not what needs to happen. Right now, it seems like he's so desperate to score that he's taking shots when he should be passing. It's not pretty, much like the ski-jump he's got on his head. (Yes, I'll continue to harp on that till it goes away.) Boy needs to relax.

As for England? I'm just pretending it never happened. 3-5-2 what?

11 October 2006

I thought it was paper-rock-scissors

This is not the most confidence-inspiring picture I've ever seen.

After that, they played Red Rover and then Steve gave them their morning snacks and they took a nap.

08 October 2006

Sven hate and Carra the psychic

Materazzi has written a book about "what he might have said to prompt Zinedine Zidane to head butt him." The article only quotes a couple of the 249 (?!) responses. But, dude, if he had actually said "Since Foucault died, French philosophy has sucked," that would clearly have been the most awesome insult not only in the history of soccer, but in the history of the entire world. I might be giving Materazzi a bit too much credit, but come on. Soccer players talking philosophy? That's almost as funny as "Jamie Carragher, penalty specialist," SVEN.

And that leads nicely into my next topic, which is "England: the hell?" It's strange, because they didn't play all that badly, really, but they just could not get anything going up front. No matter what Rio or John Terry says, Wayne Rooney is completely in a slump at the moment, and Crouch hasn't been getting the games at Liverpool to be as sharp as they needed him to be, I think. Lampard still sucks (no surprise), and I totally think that Steven's hair (as seen here) has cursed him. He can't score, he keeps running inside instead of staying on the wing, and he gets questionable yellows that keep him out of crucial games. AWESOME. They just weren't gelling for some reason -- are we back to the old midfield issues? -- and that's bad news with Croatia on Wednesday. (Also note in that link: Jamie Carragher can kill you with his brain. And he will, too.)

I'm not even going to talk about Spain, really. Just, I know they're a team of choke artists, but don't you have to get to Euro 2008 before you can choke there? They're fifth in their group now, I think, but I guess that's what happens when you make Cesc Fabregas your midfield general -- I love him to pieces, but he's 19! -- and start three players I've never even heard of. It's not like they were playing San Marino; this was a need-to-win match. I don't get it. And I don't get the vote of confidence in Aragones, either. Meh.

Dear US Soccer: yes. A thousand times yes. Anything's better than Arena or Sven.

27 September 2006

Matchday 2, goal #3.

Final proof -- Peter Crouch is 90% limbs.

20 September 2006

It's about time, kids.

Jesus Christ, Xabi. Remember when I said I love the power shots from long range? Yeah, double that. Absolutely stunning.

And in larger terms, I'm so happy we've remembered how to score. It's hard to win games if you can't do that.

Tonight's TV.

Once In a Lifetime broadcast premiere tonight, 9:00 on ESPN2.

Here's a little more information about the movie. I remember wanting to see it when it came out this summer, but I don't think it ever came to my area. I have to say, I'm a big documentary nerd, and this looks really interesting (And got good reviews, too.) So, yeah, I'll definitely be watching that tonight. Along with the BBC documentary that's causing such a fuss these days. I have to say, I love a good scandal.

19 September 2006


Sven just keeps turning up like a bad penny. If he couldn't win the World Cup with all of England's talent, what do they expect him to do with the much less deep US squad? Besides call up high schoolers?

Sorry, I'm bitter right now. Something about losing to Chelsea and being 15th in the league will do that to you.

14 September 2006

Thursday evening randomness

1. Yay Palermo! Nothing against West Ham, but I adopted Palermo over the summer as my new Serie A favorites, mostly because of their fashion-forward pink home kits. Well, that and the way that my previous team, Milan, are dirty cheaters and whiners. I needed a new team, and yeah. It's Palermo, so well-done to them, and yay for beating the newly Tevez-ified West Ham.

2. Sven thinks he could manage Arsenal, Man U, or Liverpool. Um. Has he noticed that none of them are looking for managers? And that he didn't exactly cover himself in glory at the World Cup? No? Okay, then. At least no one seems to be taking him seriously -- if he were likely to come to Liverpool and play Steven out of position there, I may actually cry.

3. I don't know how I haven't linked The Offside before this. Hilarious, and a prolific updater. Highly recommended.

4. As is The Beautiful Game. She's an Argentina fan, but no one's perfect, are they?

5. And your goal of the day. Tomas Rosicky. Beautiful -- I'm a sucker for the power shots from midfield. If y'all couldn't tell.

13 September 2006

Defense: Try it.

First of all, Ashley Cole = all class. I gotta say, if I were playing with him at Chelsea, I would never say anything that I didn't want to see in the papers. Though I'm glad we finally got Pizzagate sorted. Because that's in no way trivial.

Second, we're not talking about the derby. I know I should, but honestly? I am so frustrated with Liverpool right now that I don't really have anything intelligent to say. At least we've won one of three, I suppose, but when your last Premiership clean sheet was April, something's not right. I really do question Rafa's team selections recently -- I mean, I love Riise and Carra as much as anyone, but when it's a derby and they're both still recovering from injuries? And you have Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio as cover? Yeah, I don't get it. I also don't understand why we bought all these wingers in the transfer window and now we're skittish about using them. I don't know what needs to happen for us to stop having problems at the back -- whatever it is, though, we need to get it together quick. Right now, our goal difference is -2. This isn't how you challenge Chelsea (or, hell, Man U or Everton) for the title. And speaking of that, man. I fear next Sunday, when we play Chelsea away. With Rafa in his current mood, my prediction is Xabi Alonso up front, Steven Gerrard in goal, Pepe Reina in midfield, and Crouch as a central defender.

Third, Liverpool's defense may be pretty shambolic at this point, but it's nothing to Real's. Seriously, I'm watching their Champions League game against Lyon, and wow. They're playing like my rec team, and we're 0-2 for the season.

01 September 2006

Transfer window, part two: go away.

1. Cole to Chelsea, Gallas and five million to Arsenal.

2. Reyes to Real, at least for a year.

I'm very happy for all three of you. Now would you please 1) shut up and 2) go away? I feel like I've been hearing about these transfers since about 2003 -- and in Cole and Reyes' cases, that's not far off, really. It seems like there's always one or two really long and involved transfer dramas, usually involving Chelsea in some form or another. Last year it was Essien and (sort of) Steven. I say sort of because he ended up changing his mind -- a few times, really. But it still went on for what seemed like ages, and as interesting as it was at the beginning, by the end, I was so tired of every single person involved that I wanted them all to go away to one of Abramovich's islands (come on, he totally has islands) till about October so I wouldn't have to hear any more from them for a good long while.

And now that's exactly how I feel about Reyes, Cole, and Gallas. You're done for a while, boys. I don't want to hear anything else out of you until about March. (Man, wouldn't this be a better world if fans were really able to place players on time-out? You'd hear a lot less from Mourinho, that's for sure.)

31 August 2006

28 August 2006

Stem cells? Yeah, that's not creepy.

Say whatever you want, I totally think Henry's breeding himself a race of superbabies.

Said babies will be able to score twenty goals in a season, in between bouts of pouting and shrugging all French-like.

27 August 2006

New season what?

I am so happy that Daniel Agger is not dead. And that we've finally remembered how to win in the league. For one shining moment yesterday, we were above Chelsea and Arsenal in the standings, and I know it's early in the season, but I don't care. That's pretty awesome. As long as Liverpool doesn't start the season as badly as they did last year, I think they'll be in pretty good shape. Especially if Chelsea continues to try their interesting "playing with no defense" experiment.

And speaking of Chelsea, God must be a Barca fan, that's all I have to say. Which is fine with me. However, I'm not thrilled that God seems to be an AC Milan fan as well. I wonder if He missed the part over the summer where they're big dirty cheaters and shouldn't even be in the Champions League. I mean, seriously. My mom could make it out of that group. Though I guess Man U had a similarly easy group last season, and we all remember what happened then, don't we, Footie Girl? I'm really looking forward to this year's Champions League, since that whole Italian drama has opened the field to more teams from smaller countries, it seems. It should be interesting. As far as Liverpool's draw, I'm pretty happy, I suppose. PSV will be a challenge, but barring some disaster, it seems like we'll make it out of the group.

Changing the subject entirely, yay, Man City! Here's hoping more clubs follow suit.

24 August 2006


Oh God, y'all, I had no idea it'd been this long. Blame the start of the school year (yes, in August) and Liverpool's refusal to be consistently good for making me not want to write about them. I'm planning a longer update tonight, but for now, I just thought y'all might want to know that there's definitely no God.

04 August 2006

5-0 is less fun from this side.

Oh my god, Liverpool. Allowing three goals in the last five minutes? That's not the way to set defensive records, boys. I know part of this is because Steve Finnan's out injured and Rafa's trying to give the new boys some experience, and give Dudek his once-a-season run out. (Does anyone know what happened to Daniel Agger, by the way? He hasn't played in any of the friendlies. Is he injured, too, or did they sell him and not tell anyone?) But still. Even with all that, this is not the best way to go into the Champions League qualifier. Which is, you know, WEDNESDAY. I'm just saying. You need to get it together, unless you want to prove Mourinho right. And really, do you want to live in that world? I don't.

02 August 2006

Tour de Liverpool!

Carra looks almost as ready as I am for the new season to start. (Picture from Red and White Kop.)

31 July 2006

19 days till the season starts!

And, y'all, I am so very ready. Not that I don't love the transfer window, but it's hard to get that excited about Man U buying Carrick or Chelsea spending a ton on building Abramovich's fantasy team. We got rid of Cisse and Morientes, and got a couple of good wingers for, you know, less than 18 million pounds. Get us another striker, and I'm happy.

This was pretty awesome, though. I mean, I wouldn't want to see Reina playing in midfield every time, and I'll be happy when the full side starts playing again. But, man. I thought playing Steven as a left-back was odd. Sometimes I love my team. (Where "sometimes" is defined as "pretty much all of the time.")

And speaking of my teams, things my other team needs to do to not suck anymore. I pretty much agree with all of it -- the biggest priorities are getting the midfield figured out, getting a new captain, and getting together a solid backup plan for the next time the Owen/Rooney partnership is unavailable. Which will be pretty much all of the qualification, if Owen takes as long getting over this ACL tear as he did the metatarsal. And with Rooney out for the first two games, they need to figure it out fast. I'm a big supporter of Peter Crouch; he didn't have the greatest World Cup, but he was still England's most prolific striker. Actually, I think pairing him and Walcott up front could work really well. Crouch isn't great as a lone striker, but working with someone smaller, with better pace, could really work well, I think. Maybe not Walcott, since he has yet to play in the Premiership, but I think Defoe or one of the others could be a good choice here.

As far as the midfield, I think you have to go with J. Cole-Hargreaves-Gerrard-Lennon. Beckham's been good, but you have to start preparing for his retirement. Hargreaves had a couple of really good games in Germany, Cole was solid (if you can cure him of trying to cut in all the time), and come on. Is it really even a contest between Gerrard and Lampard these days? I'd like for them to be able to work together, but it's just not happening. You have to at least experiment with them separate. God, England. At least the defense is relatively solid these days. Though I'd bench Rio on the basis of his hair alone.

One more thing -- Steven for captain, dude. Like it's even a contest. I don't see John Terry singlehandedly winning the FA Cup anytime soon, do you?

25 July 2006

And yet more preseason randomness

1. Liverpool is the best team in the Premiership. Nice to have my suspicions confirmed. (Also, Chelsea's place in the table might be the best thing I've seen all day. That's how it should be, kids.)

2. All the Serie A cheaters get their sentences reduced. That is some bullshit. Sorry, but an eight-point deduction, for trying to fix games? Like, and they get to be back in the Champions League next season? Oh no. I don't care that they were the least culpable of the four dirty teams. Eight points is less than three games lost -- that's all they get for destroying the integrity of the league and calling the last two seasons into question? And even worse than that is that Lazio and Fiorentina get to play in Serie A next season. It's completely ridiculous -- I guess money and prestige still talk. The last thing these clubs need is to have their sentences reduced. Fixing matches, no matter how it's done, is the worst thing that a team can do. As far as I'm concerned, bust them all down to Serie B, and Juve, who were really behind all of it, to Serie C. Ban them all from Europe. That's the only way to stop things like this.

3. Amateur team to play the LA Galaxy in the US Open Cup. This is like a non-conference team beating Liverpool and going on to meet, say, Man City. The Galaxy aren't the best MLS team by a long shot, but it's still worth celebrating that they got this far. I gotta say, I'm cheering for the minnows. Let's go, Dallas!

23 July 2006

Is it really a friendly if you lose?

I swear, he and Steven take it in turns to be linked with Real. As long as it doesn't really happen, the rumors are probably a good thing. I mean, better than being linked with, like, Boro or something, isn't it? However. He better not really go.

Um, isn't the point of a preseason tour to win? Someone forgot to give Man U that memo. If you think this is gloating because they lost, well, you're exactly right. Come on, it's Man U. This is a Liverpool blog. I can't be highminded all the time.

20 July 2006

When does the season start again?

New fans are so cute. Even when they're nationally known sports columnists. He ended up picking the wrong team, but that's okay. It's still cute -- reading that kind of reminds me of where I was four years ago, having really just gotten into soccer and trying to figure out a lot of things. (I remember being really confused when the media would refer to clubs by the name of their stadium. I knew who Arsenal were, but Highbury? No clue.) This may be the first time anyone has called Bill Simmons "cute," but I'm standing by it. I love seeing new people get into the sport.

In other news, trash-talking is now just as bad as a headbutt. So, Materazzi didn't say anything racist. Then why is he getting a fine? Trying to get a rise out of your opponents is a part of every single sport. As long as it's not racist, I don't think it should be punished. Materazzi wanted to make Zidane less effective. Zidane took the bait. Punishing Materazzi for this is really setting a precedent that FIFA are probably going to regret. Why are we trying to make soccer into a garden party?

The season starts in less than a month. Thank God.

11 July 2006

World Cup withdrawal means YouTube trolling.

Why doesn't England do stuff like this? Also, I'm a little disturbed by the bizarre affection I have for Gattuso these days.

Thanks to Footie Girl for the link!

07 July 2006

Forza Italia!

Yes, I'm supporting Italy in the final. Yes, pictures like this are the only reason why.

In defense of CONCACAF

This is a little cynical even for me. I don't think he's wrong, exactly, but still. If there's no hope, why even bother? You're not playing for pride at that point. I'll fully agree that the US were wretched in two of their games, and Costa Rica didn't really show up, either. But Mexico had a great game against Argentina, and T&T did better than anyone expected them to. Yes, they only got a draw, but come on. They played well (and more entertainingly than England), and only losing 2-0 is pretty respectable. Everyone expected them to crash and burn, but they fought, and I have a total thing for the plucky little underdogs.

Not that CONCACAF should be thrilled with this Cup. But it's not as awful as he says. I think getting more players in Europe will make a difference -- the non-European teams that performed best, like Ghana and Argentina, had a lot of players overseas. I don't think it'll be instantaneous, but it'll do more for the development of the international team than playing in a bush league like MLS will. I also think playing in more international competitions will help. I don't think CONCACAF should merge with the South American conference; it's just not at that level yet. But one of the best things they could do is improve the level of the teams they play against -- they've been invited to Copa America several times, and that's got all of the South American teams. It's a good step between the useless friendlies and being in the same conference. (Also, seriously, step up the level of the friendly competition. Playing Morocco and Jamaica's not doing you any favors.)

So, it'll be hard, and it'll take a while. But I don't think you can say a CONCACAF team will never win it all. The next Cup's in South Africa. Out of Europe, all bets are off.

02 July 2006

You play for 120 minutes, and then Portugal win on penalties

(With apologies to Gary Lineker for this post's title.)

I guess I can't avoid the quarterfinal forever, can I? At least they had a good game before they went out. I mean, obviously the finishing left something to be desired -- there was none of it. The defense was shaky, and they still haven't figured out what to do with the midfield. As far as I'm concerned, that should be Steve McClaren's first job as manager, not deciding who the new captain should be. (Because, come on. That's easy. Steven.)

I don't want to blame Rooney, or even Ronaldo, or the penalty takers. England had a good game. It could have been better in a lot of ways, like Rooney not letting himself be baited. England should have killed the game off several times, but they didn't, and the penalty curse kicked in. Portugal came out and played like they always do. They whined and dove and cried and complained, and it seems to work for them. It's a crappy way to play, not that they seem to care. But it makes them look bad, it makes the game look bad, and I don't like it. I don't like it when England does it, I don't like it when other teams do it, and I really hope it doesn't pay off for them in the next round.

As an England fan, I never thought I'd say this, but allez les Bleus!

Podolski? Really?

Dear Germany: you can have her.

30 June 2006

I'd hire him.

This is perhaps the most awesome thing I've seen all week. That includes Ribery's goal and the Argentina/Germany game.

29 June 2006

Quarters, here we come

I totally would have posted sooner, y'all, but I was gone last weekend, and then I came back and watched the England/Ecuador game. I've only just now come out of the coma. Hi, everyone. So, what's happened since I've been gone?

Spain crashed and burned. Man, I knew supporting them would only end in tears. I just didn't know it would be so soon. That first French goal was gorgeous, though, and I'm glad it was a relatively clean game, Thierry Henry aside. (Really, Henry, you're too talented for that stuff. Lame.) I'm going to have to hold my nose and cheer for France Saturday, though, just because I'm so tired of everyone going on and on about how awesome Brazil is. Also, how great would a France/England semi be?

I fear England/Portugal. Because, grudge match much? I'd be so incredibly happy if they could pull this out, but history seems to be against us in this area. God, especially if it goes to penalties (not PKs, Marcelo Balboa, thanks). Portugal haven't really set the world on fire, but you know, neither have England. They're down a couple of their best players, though, after that debacle against the Netherlands. I have limitless belief in the ability of England to choke on the big occasion, though, so I'm not calling this for them. I'll just be wearing my lucky socks and hoping for the best.

I developed immunity to the ESPN commentators. The secret? Not paying them any attention. That way lies madness. I'm just so sad that O'Brien and Balboa are still there, and they'll be calling the final. I'd give a lot to be able to get the BBC audio feed.

23 June 2006

Wow, really?

Dear US Team:
Shut up. Really. True, that was a bad penalty call. And that was a hell of a bad time to concede a goal, right before the half. I'll give you that. However, Markus Merk isn't the reason you had the lowest shots-on-goal of ANY team at this World Cup. Yeah, Trinidad and Tobago beat you out. How's that feel? The ref didn't make you play 4-5-1 in a game you needed to win, either. He didn't make Landon Donovan forget how to play, he didn't make you take Bryan Ching over Taylor Twellman, and he certainly didn't make you not show up at all in two of your three games. I know the ref can mess up games -- though I'd talk to Croatia before complaining too much -- but if you play well enough, it won't be a factor.

Also, complaining about being 2-1 down at halftime and how haaaaaaaard it is to come back from that? Yeah, as a Liverpool fan, I have to say this: Put on your big-girl pants and shut the hell up.

No love,

19 June 2006

World Cup randomness

Who Should I Cheer For?

If you're a true neutral, this site will recommend which team to support, based on ten factors, including economic equality and corruption. I'm increasingly impatient with geopolitical analyses of soccer; this is why I have no plans to buy "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup." (That and the title's incredibly patronizing.) But if you don't take it too seriously, that site's a good way to spend a few minutes. (No matter what it says, though, I'm still cheering for Japan over Brazil.)

And Spain does it again. If they follow the script, they'll run all over Saudi Arabia, top the group, and then fall apart against South Korea or Switzerland in the Round of 16. I'm not getting excited yet.

As far as England's team selection, I'm not saying anything yet. Except I think Sven's finally gone crazy. Hopefully, crazy like a fox, though I have a hard time even suggesting that about any lineup that doesn't include Steven Gerrard.

15 June 2006

England/Trinidad and Tobago

Well, I guess England wasn't taking notes on the Spain game, because, wow, that was pathetic. Ten minutes of solid play at the end, but the eighty minutes before that were completely wretched. I'm happy for Crouch and Steven (and really happy Crouch didn't do the robot again), but I can't be happy at all with that performance, especially when you remember Trinidad finished fourth in CONCACAF. The biggest issues in today's game:

1. The midfield still isn't working well together. Steven, when he's defending, completely disappears, leaving Lampard to try to make the kind of shots Steven normally takes. Considering that Lampard had about five shots, and no goals, and Steven scored with his first shot, why is Steven still stuck defending? Oh, right. England can pack 24 tubes of toothpaste, but forgot to bring along a real holding midfielder.

2. Owen's first touch has yet to return, and Crouch was incredibly wasteful. I don't know why we brought Walcott, since he's clearly never going to get a game. But on his current form, Owen needs to be dropped. I adore him, y'all know that, but he's obviously not match-fit yet -- hell, Rooney looked better than he did, and he's barely got a foot. His first touch has gone to pieces, and he's just not there. Crouch, on the other hand, seems to have been reading the papers too much. I like him and all, but he's not the new Maradona. He needs to forget the bicycle kicks, take some time, and get the shots right.

3. John Terry's the only reason that wasn't a 2-0 loss. It hurts me to praise Terry too extravagantly, but his defending was the only good thing about most of the game. It shouldn't take a flight over the goal line to keep a clean sheet against T&T, but since it did, I'm glad he was there.

It didn't cost you here, boys, but it should have. And it sure as hell will in the next round, whether you get Ecuador or Germany. Get it together. The Guardian was being generous here -- you were extremely lucky to get a result, let alone win.

14 June 2006


Oh, Spain. Don't toy with me. I don't want to get my hopes up -- I've read your record in World Cups.

However, that was a pretty sweet game. I can only hope England was watching, and taking notes.

10 June 2006


Well, that was fun. Get an early goal, try for the rest of the half, sort of, to get another one. About an hour in, replace a striker with a midfielder, then replace your best attacking midfielder with Owen Hargreaves. For the last ten minutes, keep the ball in your own half, just to make sure all your fans traumatized by the memories of Euro 2004 suffer flashbacks. Hang on for dear life, and then pretend there's nothing wrong with that. Bah.

I'm still not convinced by the Gerrard/Lampard midfield partnership. It just looked to me like the best they could do was have Lampard try to hit those shots from about 40 yards out, while Steven sat back and defended the best he could. I don't think he did all that badly, but I'll argue all day that Steven's way more effective going forward -- they were about even on goals scored this season, and if you don't count the one of Lampard's that were penalties or free kicks, then it changes the ratio. Also, which one of them scored the goal of the season? Steven was brilliant at the end of the regular season, so I'd give him the attacking role in a heartbeat. If either of England's strikers did at all well alone, I'd be evangelizing 4-5-1 right now. As it is, though, I think this is the best we've got. They just need to lock the two of them in a room until they figure it out.

I'm a little bit disappointed in Sven, though. I got all excited when he called up Theo Walcott, thinking he had gone crazy and decided to take some risks in his last tournament ever. But with the way the game went today, apparently not. I really really hate the whole sit-back-and-defend school, and I especially hate it when that lead is just one goal. I'm a Liverpool fan -- after the Champions League final in 2005 and the FA Cup final this year, I've pretty much learned that no lead is insurmountable. (And do I really need to mention Euro 2004 again?) It didn't cost England this time, since Santa Cruz was off form, but it'll come back to bite them in the ass if they make it to the knockout stages.

Quick things about the other games today:
1. God, how awesome is Shaka Hislop? Even taking away how great a name "Shaka" is, that was an incredible performance. I mean, Sweden wasn't exactly on fire, but still. All the credit in the world to him.
2. So I started off watching Argentina/Ivory Coast as a neutral. I wasn't thrilled with Argentina's goals, but I wasn't disappointed either. And then Argentina started diving, and they kept showing Maradona in the crowd, and yeah. I'm completely cheering for the Ivory Coast now, Drogba and all.

07 June 2006

We're going to Germany

So, y'all may not have heard, but there's a World Cup coming up. Sadly enough, I just started my summer job this week, and they kind of refuse to let me take off eight hours a day to watch matches. I'll be recording a lot of the games (all of England, most of Spain, and probably some others), but I pretty much won't be able to watch anything live. This is clearly tragic; however, I'm not leaving y'all stranded.

Guardian World Cup. Podcasts, minute-by-minute match reports, and pretty much my favorite mainstream World Cup site.

Finals Fantasy. From the people at It's Up for Grabs Now and the Soccer Bandit. I especially like the ad reviews. (Michael Owen? Asda? How could you?)

Deadspin. Liveblogs of all the weekday matches, "four tiny tidbits" on each team, and pretty much the best of random ephemera from the sports world.

And speaking of random ephemera, Do the Crouch. Pretty much just what it sounds like. Peter Crouch's dorkiness has become a certifiable national phenomenon. Awesome. (Along those lines, Footie Girl's England drinking game made me cackle out loud. And I'm even sober!)

Finally tonight, from the New York Times, the USMNT and their delusions of adequacy. I hate to tell Arena this, but the World Cup is not, in fact, judged on crossword proficiency. (Link from Ole Ole.)

01 June 2006

The first annual end-of-season awards

With the World Cup just over a week away, it's time to finally put the 2005-06 season to bed. Thus, Footie Girl and I present our first annual end-of-season awards. Forget Player of the Year, Golden Gloves, or anything like that. These are the really important awards. So, without further ado, let the awards begin!

Chav of the Year: Joe Cole. As if his website wasn't enough. No, England's best left midfielder gets himself beat up over a Page Three girl, losing his shoes in the process. If that's not the definition of chavness, I'm not sure what is. (The Sun's version of the story -- very NSFW.)

Runner-up: John Terry. Again, we go to the Sun. There is nothing about that story that doesn't scream chav. Especially the Lionel Richie. Well, that and the text messages. And, really, the whole thing.

Most Valuable Spaniard: Xabi Alonso. Come on, with the two of us? It was never going to be anyone else. But he's really been the spine of Liverpool's midfield this season; without him and Sissoko keeping that area under control, there's no way the "let Steven roam freely" strategy would have worked at all. He's just about the best passer in the league, too. Even though he's not a goalscorer, the ones he does score are pretty damn sweet.
Runner-up: Cesc Fabregas. The bargain of the year for Arsenal -- Barca are still kicking themselves over letting him go at 16. This year, Cesc was the best player in a lot of Arsenal's Champions League games, especially the games against Juve and Real. And the scary thing? He's only 19.

Underwear-Related Mishap of the Year: Steven Gerrard mooning his teammates. (Link mildly NSFW.) I don't think this requires a lot of explanation, really. Except sometimes? Steven is about five years old. (Really, though, the saddest thing about that story is how no one could make the shot.)
Runner-up: Steven borrowing Cisse's zebra-print underwear. From that article: Here at Liverpool it's Stevie G [Steven Gerrard] who teases me about my clothes. Sometimes I go to the showers, and when I come back he's wearing my clothes. I have funny underwear, like zebra print, so he puts on my underpants and walks around the dressing room. I can't really add anything to that. Except, God, I picked the weirdest team ever.

The "WTF, Steven?" Moment of the Season: Getting sent off against Everton. Like, really? Really, Steven? After twenty minutes? They were both such stupid cards, and coming right after one another, there was no way he wasn't going to get sent off. I mean, Steven's not normally a model of composure, but he's not usually a chicken with its head cut off, either.
Runner-up: It's got to be DJ Stevie G. Not quite as odd as Crouch's robot dance, but um. Not exactly normal, either.

Most Emo Player: Cristiano Ronaldo. This started way back in the Champions League, when he was all "Wah, Benfica's fans were mean to me!" (Never mind that he used to play for their rivals.) Then there was the training ground drama with Ruud van Nistelrooy. It must be very tiring to be Ronaldo; everything's a tragic opera, it seems. Also, all the whining and falling over.
Runner-up: Cesc Fabregas. He's not really emo, as far as I've seen -- a little complaining about the calls Arsenal got in the Champions League final, but that's all. However, his default setting seems to be really really pouty. That, coupled with his age, and how I'm reasonably sure he has a Myspace, is good enough to make him runner-up.

And here endeth a pretty awesome season for Liverpool. Third in the league, closing the gap of Chelsea, and winning the FA Cup? Yeah, I'll totally take that.

30 May 2006

By popular demand

Seriously, it seems like half my hits are coming from people searching for "Peter Crouch robot celebration" or something similar. Now, usually, I can't help people who come to my site looking for something specific -- "what Kaka thinks of Steven Gerrard"? Sorry, I have no idea. Same story for "Shevchenko hates Chelsea." True or not (and it looks like it's not), he hasn't told me anything.

Anyway. Usually, I don't have what people are looking for. But this time? I totally do. So, here, and enjoy! Thanks to the other goal-scoring robot for the link.

(Also, thanks to A Matter of Life and Death for the kind words!)

25 May 2006

One ineffective striker down, one to go?

And Morientes is going to Valencia.

The utter awfulness of that picture aside, I'm really happy with this. I don't have anything at all against him personally -- from everything I've read, he seems like a really nice guy. However, 12 goals in 61 games? No. Whether it's not adjusting to the Premiership or just getting older, it doesn't really matter. Our biggest problem last season was being unable to score goals, and he was a big part of that problem. I do wish him better luck at Valencia, but mostly I'm glad we've freed up a striking slot for someone who can actually convert chances.

Next on the hit list: Cisse. What? I can hope, can't I?

24 May 2006

Why England?

It's a question I get asked a lot, usually right after "why soccer?" I grew up in Texas -- I was supposed to love the other football, the one with linebackers and four quarters and the marching band coming out in silly hats to play the halftime show. I was born and raised in a town that lived for all that; my dad always fell asleep to the Cowboys game on Sunday afternoons. But for me, it never really took. People explained the whole first-down thing to me again and again, but it just slipped from my brain like Algebra II. So people hear I like soccer, they get a little bit confused. They hear England, they get even more confused. And the question is always "why?" Why soccer, why England, why not the USA?

Well, the answer to those is really linked. I fell in love with this sport during the 2002 World Cup, and England is the team that made that happen. I got sucked into the whole Group of Death, especially the Greek drama surrounding England/Argentina. I learned about the Hand of God and Beckham's red card in 1998, and started to figure out just what stoppage time and the offsides rule were all about. I needed a team to follow, to obsess about and record their matches, and England provided that for me. I got into soccer because of England; in focusing on them, I learned to love the sport. And here we are today. (Liverpool came a little bit later, when I figured out where Michael Owen played in the regular season. Yeah, it's not really the best reason, but it stuck.) The two can't really be separated in my mind -- I can love other teams, like Spain, but England will always be my first love. And, like every horrible romantic comedy teaches us, you never forget your first love.

A lot of times, though, when people say "Why England?", they're really asking "Why not the US?" I've been told, in all seriousness, that I must be a bad American or hate my country if I didn't cheer for their soccer team. And, my political leanings aside, I more often than not cheer for the US to fail internationally. I'll be thrilled if the US don't make it out of their group this summer. This isn't because I hate America, loathe Landon Donovan, or anything like that. It's really because every single bit of soccer coverage in this country is like "YOU MUST LOVE THE US OR PERISH." There's also a mile-wide inferiority complex that the team and the media try to cover up by pointing to the FIFA ranking and how a lot of the players play in Europe now, so, you know, they must be good now. Well, um, or not. That aside, though, I don't do well when things are shoved down my throat. Tell me I have to like something, and I'll probably not like it, just to prove a point. (Yes, I was a difficult child.) So, it's really nothing wrong with the US on its own terms. I just resent the hell out of everyone on ESPN telling me that I need to support the US in order to be a good American. England's been my favorite team for as long as I've been a fan, and nothing that anyone can say will change that for me. Try to convert me all you want, but the best you're going to get is a smile and an "uh-huh." And on a bad day, I'll call you a dumbass.

And really, if someone like Nick Hornby can decide to switch teams, why not?

14 May 2006

Text messages sent during the FA Cup final.

"3-3 at full time. Goals from Cisse and Steven (two). Will text you final."

"And now extra time. I love Steven so much."

"Seriously gonna die."



This is what happens when you have promised to text people updates on the final, and then something like this happens. I don't know what's happened to my team -- apparently we've decided since Istanbul that the only good win is a ridiculously dramatic one. It's bad for my heart, my fingernails, and my friends, but man. I can't say I'd trade it for being, like, a Chelsea fan.

Poor West Ham, though. Penalties are an awful, awful way to lose a final, and they were the better team for most of the match. That's just what happens when you go up against the comeback specialists of Europe, though.

08 May 2006

31 days! Let the complaints begin.

Four strikers, two teenagers, and Owen Hargreaves. That's who England's taking to the World Cup. Two of the strikers aren't fully fit -- though I think Owen will be back in time -- but your Plan B is Crouch and Walcott? I adore Peter Crouch, but even I have to admit that he's not the most consistent player around. He needs a very specific style of play to do well, and I'm not sure that England can get it down in the limited prep time they have. (I do think him serving as target man for Owen could be a good pairing, though.)

And Walcott. Really? I don't mind that he's 17. I mind that he's never had a Premiership start, or an international game, for that matter. I'm not sure what he has that Darren Bent (or hell, even Jermain Defoe) don't, besides youth. I mean, Bent didn't set the world on fire in the Uruguay friendly, but it's hard to argue with his Premiership scoring record. This makes it sound like I have some huge vendetta against Walcott, and that's really not the case. I'm just surprised that he's who they decided to go with. It must be hard to be the McClaren to Rooney's Scolari, so I hope he does well. It's just not the choice I would have made.

Also choices I would not have made: Hargreaves. A thousand times Hargreaves. I would have taken Shaun Wright-Phillips and Darren Bent, too. But this is why I'm not England manager, I suppose. I'm just glad Heskey didn't manage to work his way into the side.

30 April 2006

The week that was

Like I said, a lot of stuff's been going on in Liverpool-land lately, and a lot of it's been really important, too. (Other stuff, not directly relating to Liverpool, has been going on, too. To that I say -- 1) shut up, Chelsea, 2) please get better, Wayne Rooney, and 3) I'm sorry I jinxed you, Mr. Scolari.) Herewith, a quick review:

1. The FA Cup semi. Dude. How awesome was that? I know our overall record against Chelski isn't that great, but we sure seem to win the ones that count. It was so good to see how completely we dominated in the first hour. Once they pulled one back, it became more a matter of holding on and praying, but for once our luck held out. (That Joe Cole miss? That was karma for Robben getting Reina sent off the last time we met.) Garcia frustrates me sometimes with his inconsistency, but he does have the knack of scoring goals when he needs to. They aren't exactly the goals you'd expect him to score, but I'm not complaining. We were helped out a lot by Mourinho's completely insane team selection -- dude, all your wingers are suddenly crap? Uh-huh -- but I think we did pretty well playing our advantage. I don't know what made Chelski think they could take on our midfield, but we've denied them the double, and it makes me happy. I don't want to take West Ham for granted, but I'm so happy we're in the final.

2. The PFA player of the year, Steven Gerrard. This really surprised me, but I completely think it was deserved. He's now on 21 goals for the season and hasn't really been out of form all season. There's also the little matter of him pretty much grabbing the team and throwing them back into the Champions League final last year. I've said a lot of this before, but I was really expecting one of the Chelsea players to win, just because they've been so dominant in the league. For once I was pleasantly surprised. (Also, the way he keeps carrying the trophy around with him continues to bring me joy.)

3. Liverpool/West Ham. I watched this, but I can't say it was a very thrilling game, with neither team fielding the side they're going to play in the FA Cup final. It was good to see Cisse finally remember what he's there for -- I'm actually liking him out on the wings, and I guess it'll do until we can buy some real wingers over the summer. It's a testament to the strength of the side that our B-team, pretty much, can still play that well. (Though, Garcia? What the hell was that? I agree it was a harsh red, but an elbow to the back? You were on for all of a minute. No reason.)

4. Liverpool/Villa. This wasn't that great of a game, either, but man. How about that second Gerrard goal? I'm not a huge fan of our tendency to step off the gas once we've got a goal -- it almost cost us against Chelski, and it could've cost us here, too. I understand the virtues of defending a lead, but it's not very interesting play, and when that lead is only a goal, it's not that smart, either. If any team should know about comebacks, it's us, so I'd think we'd be a bit more wary of getting complacent once we lead. We're really better at counterattacking, which is somewhat defensive by nature, but taken too far, that's more than a little dangerous. If Villa had been able to finish anything, they could easily have been ahead. I know we only have one league game left, but that's something Liverpool could stand to work on for next season.

5. Finally, to the person who found me by searching for "I love Xabi Alonso"? So do I. However, I have nothing further to offer you. Sorry.

27 April 2006

More England drama

Yes, I know. Big things have been happening in Liverpool-land. (Which is, I suppose, just Liverpool.) However, finals have consumed my brain, and while the end is in sight, it's over a week away. So rest assured that there will be plenty of gloating over our FA Cup semi win, and before the final. Just not right now.

No, this post is about the new England manager -- looks like they're going with Scolari. Maybe it's because I'm not English, but I've never really gotten the gigantic shout for an English manager for the national team. Hiddink's taken three different countries to the World Cup, and he's pretty clearly not South Korean or Australian. Sven hasn't yet been able to get England past the quarters in any given tournament, but that's not really a function of him being foreign, is it? There were plenty of unsuccessful England managers before him, and they were all English. Considering the strongest English candidates were Alan Curbishley, Steve McClaren, and (god help us) Big Sam Allardyce, I think I'd go with the guy who, you know, has actually won the World Cup.

So. Like I said, Scolari's it, and predictably, English coaches are whining. My favorite quote there? David Gold says: "No matter how brilliant a coach someone from abroad may be, it is a betrayal of Englishmen and England fans." On the side, there's one of those instant polls, presumably filled out by mostly England fans.

Question: Is Luiz Felipe Scolari the right choice as England manager?
Answer: Yes -- 63%; No -- 37%

Oh, the irony.

22 April 2006

Cisse, tinies, and some links

I keep asking Guardian Football to marry me. No response yet. Y'all know I'm far from a Cisse fan, but even if I were, that might be the most hilarious thing I've read on the Guardian for years. I don't think he's long for Liverpool, and I can't really feel sorry about that -- the drama-to-goals ratio was just not working in his favor. I do have to say, though, that I'll probably end up missing my informal Cisse Hair Watch. Unless Crouch suddenly goes wild, we're not likely to see the likes of that again soon.

I can't talk about the FA Cup semi right now; I'm really just too nervous. Which is silly, because I have, like, finals to worry about. But no, this is what I choose to obssess over. (I'm pleasantly surprised that I got the buildup wrong here, though. It's nice to see Rafa getting a little bit bitchy every once in a while.) Since I can't talk about the Cup semi, I'll talk about the Youth Cup final instead. All I managed to catch of this was the celebrations after, and wow. Are these the cutest kids ever, or what? I'm not sure how screaming the intro to "Ring of Fire" became Liverpool's new celebration, but it started with the Champions League final, as far as I can tell. Then the youth team did it with this trophy, and y'all, I almost cried. This may be because I am incredibly girly sometimes, or . . . yeah, really that's about it. They're just so tiny and happy, and really playing because they love the game. Wonderful.

I keep meaning to mention my new links, and then completely forgetting. So here we go. Footie Fool has a lot of good analysis and commentary, so much so that I can forgive him for liking Arsenal over Liverpool. It's Up For Grabs Now is one of the blogs that I read way before I started my own, and it's always entertaining. Finally, EPL Talk called me "spunky." Hee. Thanks to all of you -- it makes my day every time.

15 April 2006

Ruination day, and the sky was red

I don't feel at all qualified to talk about Hillsborough -- I was not quite six when it happened. I've only been a Liverpool fan since 2002, and I've never seen a live game that wasn't held in an all-seater stadium. Even with that, though, I still cry when I read about it. It's hard for me to imagine how different things were back then, just seventeen years ago. I can't imagine what I would feel like having lost someone. It was such a completely senseless tragedy, and preventable in so many ways.

I don't have the words to talk about this, so some links instead:
LFC video tribute.
Alan Hansen.
John Barnes.

The Hillsborough 96. You'll never walk alone.

12 April 2006

Meaningless friendlies and (meaningless?) awards

First of all, here are my pictures from US/Jamaica. The game was a lot of fun, and the atmosphere was better than I expected it to be; we were right next to the US "ultras." (Don't know what you'd call them for the USMNT, so I'm just going with that.) Overall, it seemed like a meaningless friendly -- neither team was really going full-out for the win, so for most of the game, the US seemed content with a draw. Even with that, though, the US really should've won. I don't know how they're planning to handle Ghana or Italy when they can't kill off Jamaica. I don't want to get too deep into the analysis, but two things would really help them.

1. Everyone needs to be a little more selfish. There were several times when a US player would be bearing straight down on goal with a clear shot. What would he do? Pass it out wide. Every single time, it seemed, and then they'd shoot across the face of goal, or over the bar, or something. I understand wanting to help out your teammates, but sometimes you have to take the shot yourself.

2. If you're going to go for the near post corners, boys? It helps to have someone at the near post. Just a suggestion.


In other news, the PFA player of the year nominations came out today. Not surprisingly, I think Steven Gerrard should get it, but I think there are good arguments for most of the other candidates. It all really does come down to how you define success. Since all the nominees are from the Big Four teams, they're obviously not looking at success as staying up when everyone thought you were screwed (exhibit A: Plucky Little Wigan).

If success is continuing undeserved dominance, then someone from Chelski should win it, and I'd be least unhappy with Joe Cole getting it, since he has shown a lot of improvement, while John Terry and Frank Lampard have both gone off form somewhat. Chelsea's still winning everything, but a lot of the shine's gone off their success, and they're catching a lot of flack for their ugly play and diving tendencies. Terry, who scores a lot for a defender, has been solid, but not spectacular. I can name several other defenders who do just as well as him. (Also, he won last year, and I don't like repeats.) Lampard's lost the plot recently, and I'm not the only one who's noticed. Does anyone remember the last time he scored from open play? Cole's been good, but inconsistent; he's finally answered the left midfielder problem for England, though, and I have to like him a little bit for that.

If success is just individually having a good season, it's Rooney. I don't like that, though, especially since he's been a bit of a punk. He's apparently the favorite to win, and it'd be really hard to argue that he hasn't had an outstanding season. United have managed to turn their season around, and they're finally making a serious challenge to Chelsea for the title. I actually wouldn't mind him getting this, but I'd prefer that he get the Young Player award.

If success is getting furthest in the CL, then yeah, it should be Henry. He's top scorer right now, so it'd be hard to say he didn't deserve it on that basis. Somehow, though, I feel like he hasn't had that great of a season. Probably because it's been overshadowed to a large extent by 1) his will-he-stay-or-will-he-go drama, and 2) the rise of the young Arsenal players, especially Fabregas. Additionally, I am petty and don't want him to win it three times in four years. That's not really a reason, but even taking that out, I don't think he's the best thing about Arsenal this season by a long shot.

But if you define success as team improvement, then Steven should clearly get it. All Liverpool have really lacked this season is striking. They're worlds better than they were this time last season, what with being solidly in third, and maybe in position to challenge for second. Just compare that to last season, when they were hanging on to fifth and almost forty points behind Chelsea. There's no way a lot of that isn't down to Steven. Even though the rest of the team has stepped up a lot (and Rafa's bought well in some key areas), I still think Steven's absolutely essential to Liverpool. He's almost certain to get 20 goals this season, which is just ridiculous for a midfielder, and he can play almost anywhere on the pitch and completely controls midfield. He keeps growing into the captain role, and barring the odd moments of insanity, he's a lot more solid both as a player and a leader than last season. Liverpool seem to really be gelling under Rafa, and Steven's clearly a key part of that. I can imagine Man U without Rooney, Chelsea without Cole, or Arsenal without Henry. I can't imagine Liverpool without Steven. (Also, Footie Girl just reminded me of the little matter of the Champions League. Fifth time's the charm, boys.)

10 April 2006

CL quarters roundup

Okay, Blogger, I guess I didn't really want to upload a picture anyway. Gah. Will deal with that later, when it's less a Monday after I got no sleep. So what I opened this window to talk about was the Champions League quarterfinals. My prediction ratio has gotten progressively worse -- five of eight for the round of 16, two of four now. Ick. However, this time I was happy to be wrong in both cases, so it's good.

Tuesday's matches:
Milan/Lyon -- So apparently I was wrong, and Lyon aren't going to win it all. I can't really say that Milan deserved this win, though; Inzaghi's great at poaching goals, but the run of play in the first half was definitely in favor of Lyon. They just lost their concentration for the last few minutes, which is something you can't really afford to do when you're playing a team with Shevchenko on it. Overall, though, this was a really good game, and I'm glad I caught it live. Milan seem to have learned something about dramatic comebacks from playing Liverpool last season; they may have left Dida traumatized for life, though, since he was lucky not to ship more goals than he did. Only poor finishing on the part of Lyon's strikers prevented this from being 3-1 to them. I was kinda cheering for Lyon here, just because I don't like to be proved wrong, but I'm just as happy for Milan to go through. Maybe happier, actually. As much as I get amusement from Lyon having a player who goes by "Fred," I get a lot more joy out of watching Sheva and Kaka run around and jump on each other. (What? I'm not made of stone here, people.)

Villarreal/Inter -- Inter should have won this, I agree. However, I don't think attacking the players at the airport will make them want to do better, guys. ESPN didn't have this live, so I didn't see any of it -- I just kept a close eye on the Gamecast, and prayed for the away goals rule to work its magic. I'm not a huge Villarreal fan, but I was really hoping that all three Italian teams wouldn't make it through, and they obliged me. It's nothing really specific against Inter; I just can't seem to care about most Italian teams, and Inter seem like the archetypal Italian side to me. Too defensive by half. Besides, it's always fun when the underdogs pull off a surprise. Having two underdogs (these guys and Arsenal) make it to the semis is sort of an embarrassment of riches, but I am really not complaining. I think Villarreal are out in the next round, but I've been saying that for a while now, and they've shown surprising resilience.

Wednesday's matches:
Barca/Benfica -- And finally, normal service is resumed. Not that I don't like Benfica . . . oh, wait. I totally don't like Benfica. Who knocks the reigning champions out? Lame. I was really surprised when the first leg of this ended scoreless, but Barca seem to have found their footing in this second leg, and Benfica could only hold out so long against two of the three best players in the world. (I've somehow developed a bizarre affection for Ronaldinho. It's maybe because of the Nike ads, but it was developing before that. I can't even explain it, but I'm worried about myself.) This is another one ESPN didn't oblige me by showing, so I don't have a lot to say about it, except that I'm glad that Benfica aren't going any further. They didn't deserve to go as far as they did. Not that I'm bitter. Barcelona are completely the favorites now, but I'm definitely not discounting the winner of the other semi.

Arsenal/Juventus -- I'm especially not discounting the winner of the other semi if it's Arsenal. I'm really surprised by how completely Juve did not show up to these games. After the first leg, they had a battle to make it through, but it was definitely doable. Not if you don't score, though, and they just couldn't get it done. Lehmann had some decent saves, but on the whole, Arsenal were just not tested that much. They pretty much conceded the midfield battle early on. Arsenal didn't try incredibly hard to score on the second leg; there were some good shots, and Henry (or maybe Fabregas) went on a great run at the end that could've easily been a goal. (I realize Henry and Fabregas look nothing alike, but it's been a few days since I watched the match, and studying for Con Law has taken up that room in my brain.) Arsenal just had to hold on to their lead from the first leg, and Juve never really looked like scoring, especially not after they lost Nedved. (A note on that: dear ESPN commentators, please decide if it's Nyed-ved or Ned-vyed. Stick with one.) This wasn't quite as thrilling as the Milan/Lyon game, or the first leg of this tie, but I was really happy to see Le Arse make it through.

So now I'm saying the final will be Arsenal and Barcelona. And I'm picking Arsenal to win it all. They're totally the new Liverpool.

09 April 2006

I'm not dead.

Steven, darling? You may be a lover, but you ain't no dancer.

CL quarters recap later. Also, US/Jamaica is Tuesday, so hopefully I can get my new and shiny camera phone to work enough to get some pictures. (Also, I will deny ever having said this, but yay Man U! Anyone who puts a little pressure on Chelsea is fine by me.)

One more thing: hi to From the Doncaster Road End! Thanks for the link!

28 March 2006

Odds and ends

1. What did I say about Fabregas winning the midfield battle? I win at prediction. Maybe -- stranger things have happened on return legs than overturning a 2-0 deficit. Arsenal are looking more and more like this year's Liverpool, though. Sketchy domestic form, needing to perform in the Champions League to keep their best player around, in a "rebuilding year." The parallels are right there, and I'm sure everyone will be sick of them by mid-April. But for now, fun!

2. If only I had a spare $800 . . .

3. Everyone hates Chelsea, part 432. I don't know if I've seen public opinion turn against a team so quickly -- this time last year, everyone adored Mourinho. It's hard to talk smack about Chelsea without sounding bitter if you're a Liverpool fan, but it's getting easier and easier. All the money in the world can't buy class, or even interesting gameplay. (What's with all the handballs these days? It seems like there's one every game.)

4. I've heard some people recently arguing that Kevin Nolan should get an England callup. Now, I have nothing against Nolan. I can't; he's a good Scouser. However, he plays for Bolton. That alone means Sven won't call him up. Even if that weren't the case, England don't need another central midfielder. They're having enough problems these days figuring out how to get Gerrard and Lampard to work together. There's no way they need to add another guy into that mix. Especially not one that even his supporters admit isn't on the same level as the midfield pair we have now. If you want to take a backup midfielder, it should clearly be Scott Parker instead. He's the best thing about Newcastle these days, and he can actually, you know. Score goals.

5. I just got my tickets for US/Jamaica. I'm really excited about going to that, even if my newly-discovered Associative Property of Soccer means that the US is going to get killed by Italy this summer. It's really easy: Germany beat the US 4-1. Italy beat Germany 4-1. Therefore, Italy will beat the USA by a score of 8-2. Simple, elegant, and endlessly amusing.

24 March 2006

Wheaties, a short play, and handicapping the CL.

That's the only solution for what's going on with Liverpool these days. From barely scoring since the New Year, they've now won their last three games by a combined score of 15-2. I guess Wheaties aren't the only solution; Rafa might be threatening the strikers with sale to Spurs if they don't score more often. (As far as that sale, I fully support it. This drought they just got out of would never have happened if we had a reliable goalscorer in the first place. I would also support a sale of Morientes, but 1) they couldn't get as much for him, 2) it's better to dump a Houllier signing, 3) Rafa likes the Spaniards.) Anyway, even though it's not against the most quality opposition -- 3-1 to Newcastle, 7-0 to Birmingham -- I'll definitely take it. I just hope it holds out for a month or so, since we have, inevitably, been drawn against Chelsea in the FA cup semis. I've really gotten tired of the Chelsea/Liverpool games; I mean, I know they have to happen twice a season, but this will be the fifth time, when you add in the Champions League games. I could probably write out the buildup at this point.

JOSE: *insults Rafa, mentions "goal that never was," which is now eleven months old*
RAFA: *refuses to engage Jose, retreats to charmingly-accented platitudes*
JOSE: I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!
GAME: *is boring*
DRAMA: *ensues*

And really? I'm over it.

Okay, I promised Champions League commentary, and since the games start Tuesday (yay!), now's as good a time as any. I don't know how much stock y'all should take in my predictions, since I finished a sparkling 5-for-8 in the Round of 16. But that's never stopped me before -- exhibit A, my March Madness bracket -- so I don't know why it'd stop me now. Um. Anyway, here we go!

Benfica/Barcelona -- This draw makes me kinda happy that Liverpool completely sucked against Benfica, because we would've gotten slaughtered by Barcelona. Benfica's shown a bit of giant-killer spirit this year, but I don't think that it'll hold out against the runaway leaders of La Liga. I mean, I love Liverpool, but they're not really on the same level. I'm pretty sure Barca have been the favorites to win since August, so I'm gonna go with the tide and call this for Barcelona.

Arsenal/Juventus -- Oh, geez. This all comes down to whether Arsenal are this year's Liverpool or not. If they are, then they win this and go on to defeat the favorites in the most dramatic manner possible. If they're not, then Juve wins, and I cry a little bit. Arsenal have really been on a roll since beating Real last round, so they could probably pull off the upset here. However, Juve are even better than they were at this stage last season, and who knows what weird psychological effect Vieira's return will have. (On a purely personal level, I'd like to see Cesc Fabregas win that battle, just because I love the wee Spanish Muppet.) My rational side says Juve have this, but my heart's with Arsenal, and I think the momentum's for them right now, so what the hell. Arsenal.

Internazionale/Villarreal -- Ew, ew, ew. As the most casual Milan fan ever, I don't like Inter. However, I can't help but feeling like they've got more of a right to be in the quarters than Villarreal. (I don't really know what that means, but the league tables bear me out. Inter's contending for second, but Villareal are seventh.) I don't see Villarreal being strong enough to hold out over both legs. I don't like it, but I'm going with Inter.

Milan/Lyon -- See, this is the bad side of Inter/Villarreal, since a team I like gets knocked out in this tie. Lyon's still kicking ass all over the French league, and while I admit that's not the most difficult task, it's still pretty impressive. Milan are still contending for second place in Serie A, but they haven't been convincing for a while now. This is exactly what I said about them before they beat up on Bayern in the last round, though, so they seem to take joy in proving me wrong. Lyon beat PSV by a pretty lopsided score, too, however. And like I said all along, Lyon's gonna win it all. So I'm predicting Lyon.

Finally, in schadenfreude of the week: Bruce Arena admits playing Germany was a mistake. Too bad you couldn't have called that before they slaughtered you 4-1. Fifth in the world?