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.